The Magic of Motivation

Motivation is the intense desire to achieve a fixed goal because of the rewards attached to it. Some of the synonyms for motivation are: activate, drive, determination, eagerness, excite, incite, induce, inspire, influence, instigate, impulse, keenness, persuade, prompt, provoke, push, arouse, stir, urge etc. Motivation is what makes people do things. In another sense, it makes them put real effort and energy into what they do. It is the will to act. In short, ‘Getting people to do willingly and well those things which have to be done.’

It is often found that many teachers today are greatly de-motivated by the prevailing working conditions, poor salaries, lack of incentives, and ever-increasing syllabus and the kind of students encountered by them. And yet, ‘Motivation’ is perhaps the greatest single factor that enables teachers to persevere and continue to do and give of their best, regardless of the problems they encounter and the poor material compensations that teaching offers.

There are various motivators that motivate teachers. Some are internal, some external. Internal motivators include a sense of pride in being a teacher, the feeling of fulfilment one finds in one’s work, a realization of the honour and privilege that it is to be a teacher and the joy that comes from seeing one’s students blossom and bloom. External motivators include appreciation, gratitude, praise, monetary rewards, societal approval, recognition and fame.

A Divine Call

Now external motivation, coming from external sources, is weak and cannot last long. If we as teachers are dependent on constant rewards and incentives to perform and do our best, we cannot survive for long. The only motivation that lasts is inner or self-motivation that comes from within, from a person’s belief system. This means we need to believe in what we do and accept responsibility for our behaviour and our actions. Then our attitude to life becomes positive and we become more productive, both personally and professionally.

Consequently, unless we teachers look upon teaching as a vocation, a ‘divine call’ to serve the children entrusted to our care and unless we realise the honour and privilege it is to be a co-worker with God in the divine task of moulding and shaping young and growing minds, we cannot really be teachers in the true sense of the word.

Believe in Yourself

One of the nicest stories I have read about ‘inner motivation’ is the story of a young boy named Bill. Bill was a tenth grader who was passionately fond of playing soccer, but had somehow never made it to the playing eleven. Every day, during practice, his father would sit at the far end of the field, waiting for him to finish.

The matches had started and for four days, he didn’t show up for practice or the quarter or semi-finals. All of a sudden he showed up for the finals, went to the coach and said, “Coach, you’ve always kept me as a reserve and never let me play in the finals…today, please let me play.” The coach said, “Son, I’m sorry, I can’t let you. There are better players than you and besides, it is the finals, the reputation of the school is at stake and I cannot take such a big chance.” The boy pleaded, “Coach, I promise I will not let you down. I beg you, please; let me play.” The coach had never seen the boy plead like this before. He said, “Ok. son, go, play. But remember, I am going against my better judgement and the reputation of the school is at stake. Don’t let me down.”

The game started and the boy played like a spirit possessed. Every time he got possession of the ball, he scored a goal. Needless to say, he was the best player and the star of the game. His team secured a spectacular win!

When the game finished, the coach went up to him and said, “Son, how could I have been so wrong about you. I’ve never seen you play like this before. What happened? What made you play so well?” The boy replied, “Coach, my father is watching me today.” The coach turned around and looked at the place where he used to see the boy’s father sitting. There was no one there. He said, “Son, your father used to sit there when you came for practice, but I don’t see anyone there today.” The boy replied, “Coach, there is something I never told you. My father was blind. Just four days ago, he died. Today is the first day he is watching me from above!”

Motivation is vital in any job if people are to give their best to it. Assuming that teachers are given opportunity for good performance and have the necessary skills, then effectiveness depends on their motivation. The responsibility of motivating their team is on the team leaders. It is they who are placed to create the correct environment in which teachers will ‘grow’ and give of their best to their work. Therefore, leaders should continually look for opportunities to give positive feedback, praise and encouragement. Teachers need praise and encouragement like roses need rain and sunshine. Take every opportunity to make teachers feel better about themselves and their work.

Sustaining Enthusiasm

Now it is true that there are certain times when people are inclined to feel more greatly inspired and motivated than at other times, and teachers are no exception to this happening. The start of an academic year, the conclusion of a Teacher Effectiveness Workshop or Seminar and Special Days like Teachers’ Day and Annual Days are occasions when we are inclined to feel more inspired and motivated. But unless this motivation is sustained, it tends to fade away before long. How to stay and remain motivated is then the next key issue.

This had to be done at two levels – the personal level of inner or self-motivation and at the level of external motivation. While it is an undeniable fact that self-motivation is the only true motivation, being human, this inner motivation often needs to be sustained and strengthened by external motivators as well.

Motivation is self-generating. It can be generated by one’s own effort and determination and one can strive to stay motivated. At the personal level of self-motivation, there us a magic Motivation Mantra that I recommend to Board Exam students for success in their exams and when which I believe in and practise in my own life. It consists of six magic words “I CAN, I WILL, I MUST.”

I CAN… Believe in yourself, that you can do it. I WILL… Be Determined to succeed and to come out a winner. I MUST… Be Persevering, which means never give up or give in. Try this Motivation Mantra yourself; apply it to your own life, and you will see the magic it works!

Internal and External Motivators

Another self-motivation tool used extensively by athletes is what is called Auto Suggestion or Positive Self-Talk. It consists of positive statements made in the present tense and repeated regularly. Teachers could motivate themselves by using positive statements like: ‘Teaching is a Vocation, a Divine Call to serve others’, ‘I have chosen to respond to that call and to be a teacher”, “It is a privilege and a responsibility to be a co-worker with God”, “I can do it, I will do it, I must do it”.

At the external level, two important factors that sustain motivation are Recognition and Responsibility. Recognition implies being appreciated, being treated with dignity and respect and feeling a sense of belonging. Responsibility gives the person a sense of self-worth, a feeling a being trusted and considered good enough and of being worthwhile. Head of institutions can help their staff stay motivated by recognising and appreciating their efforts and by delegating responsibility to them, both of which are emotionally gratifying.

Another golden opportunity to foster motivation, often unused or neglected, is the time when a person first joins an institution. This is a time when employees are most motivated. This is prompted by a desire to prove themselves and to prove to the employer that he or she has made the right decision in employing them. It is at this stage that teachers must be oriented to the philosophy and culture of the institution, its vision and mission, employers’ and employees’ expectations of each other, parameters and guidelines to be followed, what is acceptable and what is not. Often, new comers on the staff are left to themselves and are expected to watch, observe and learn from experience. Instead, if Institution Heads invested time and effort in induction and Orientation of new staff, this would serve as valuable initial motivators.

Heads of institutions can also use other motivation techniques like making the school environment comfortable and friendly, setting well-defined, clear and achievable targets, laying down measurable benchmarks, throwing challenges and rewarding them, when challenges are met. Other external motivators that help teachers stay motivated are appreciation, affection, gratitude and approval – the kind of sentiments usually expressed by management, principals, students and parents on occasions like Teachers’ day. This should not merely be a once-in-a-year affair, but frequently expressed and shown.

On the negative side, dangerous de-motivators include unfair and negative criticism, public humiliation, rewarding non-performers, unfair treatment, responsibility without authority, politics and lack of direction. These must be carefully avoided.

The Magic Mantra

If teachers need to be motivated in order to perform effectively, then students too need to be motivated, and teachers are their best motivators. In the case of older students, teachers must endeavour to inculcate in them inner or self-motivation. This involves accepting responsibility for their behaviour and actions, and for their performance in their studies. In this context, the Magic Mantra “I CAN, I WILL and I MUST” can work wonders.

– Dr. John Parankimalil

About John Parankimalil

John Parankimalil, SDB, M.A. (English), M.Ed, Ph.D (Education), popularly known as P.D. Johny is a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco. He is presently the Rector and Principal of Don Bosco College, Tura, Meghalaya and Director of Don Bosco College of Teacher Education, Tura. He received the 1st Computer Literacy Excellence Award from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the President of India in August 2002 and the Guruvar Best Teacher Award from Shri Kapil Sibal, HRD Union Minister in 2009. He was formerly Principal of St Anthony's Higher Secondary School, Shillong and National President of All India Association of Catholic Schools (AINACS), New Delhi and the Charter President of Rotary Club of Orchid City, Shillong. He has authored several books. He is an Eduationist, Story-Teller and Leadership Trainer. He conducts seminars for Principals, Teachers, Students and Parents. His popular books include, He Can Who Thinks He Can (Macmillan), An Elocution Manual (Orient Longman), Progressive Parenting (Unicorn), Inspirational Stories for Purposeful Living (Babhani) The Way to Success and Happiness (Savio), How to Win Over Your Problems (Babhani), The Secrets of High Achievers (Babhani).
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