Sunday, March 20, 2011

Motivation and Inspiration

I recently had the privilege to speak to the staff at my old school. It was such a breath of fresh air to walk into the hallway of a new school day. Even though I am really content with my career choice at this moment, I was a little jealous of my ex-colleagues and the day that was ahead of them, filled with kids and creativity and a bit of holy chaos. Maybe a lot of chaos. I really do miss teaching.

I spoke about motivation and inspiration:

Motivation: a chest-pounding, fist-in-the-air, Eye of the Tiger drive to achieve (cue music).

Inspiration: to breathe life into.

Definitions mine.

I subscribe to both. I believe they are both important but fundamentally different. So, I asked which is more important as a teacher. The consensus lay with inspiration, reasons being that it was longer lasting, more authentic, true to our humanity, and more powerful to create change. Agreed.

And then I asked what we focus on in schools. As teachers, we spend our days motivating. We find creative and sometimes sneaky ways to motivate kids to read a book, do a math problem, complete their homework, stay quiet....etc. We are trained to give the "tools and strategies" they need to achieve, and that is a good thing. It's easy to motivate. You get psyched yourself, put Chariots of Fire on the Ipod (I've actually done that), and then dangle a reward or punishment in front of them. I'm a master at motivation. I can bend the will of almost any kid I've ever encountered.

But how do you inspire?

I can only model inspiration. I need to be inspired myself, and then live out that inspiration in front of my students, unashamedly. Sure, I'm not always inspired, but I know how to get inspired. I know whose blog to read, and which TED video to watch, I know to hit the mountains, find some solitude, drink a bottle of wine with certain friends. I know to run and reflect and listen to opera. I know to pray.

Find inspiration.

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