As teachers we have to daily fight for our own motivation, not only financial but professional and intellectual as well. What is it that makes you get out of bed and teach for a few or many hours a day? In person or online? Unpaid hours spent preparing for lessons, searching for ideas, developing PowerPoint presentations… and all that for what?
Even highly motivated students at the beginning of the program see their motivation wane as the weeks pass. The excitement of the new, the hope for quicky proficiency, etc, all take their toll on every student.
A few learners keep their torch burning, do their homework, study on their own, use their language tools in different situations, etc… but most of them still wait for the teacher to revolutionize their language skills.
The Longman Learners’ Dictionary defines motivation as eagerness and willingness to do something without needing to be told or forced to do it
How can I as a teacher get my students to take charge of their own learning process?
First, let us think how fast we can motivate or demotivate someone:
While motivation requires a connection that can take minutes, hours or days to build and consolidate, you can destroy a learner’s motivation in a fraction of a second with just one word. Yes, you read it right, the most demotivating speech can be just one word.
How then can I motivate them?
Promote communication. Learning is a process. Input and output.
Allow space for creativity and connection which will enable engagement.
Build a healthy relationship with the students. As a teacher you don’t need to be their pal but empathy can go a long way in getting them started.
Don’t get me wrong. There will be good days and bad days … hopefully the good ones will far outnumber the bad ones. How? As we develop a culture of learning, provide tools for their growth and continue to encourage them in their progress.
Yes, the comic strip in my desk calendar was quite right – considering it was originally created in 2019, that the new year (2020) would be a LOT different from last year.
Exactly one year ago we prayed and gave thanks for coming to the end of a year, which hadn’t been easy financially and welcomed the New Year: 2020. What did I expect? A good year – an even number – representing balance and prosperity (at least in my thoughts and wishes, mind you). But then… Covid-19 happened. The year 2020 became an odd year.
In fast succession cities, states, and countries started shutting down – in Brazil (as everything else) we awoke after Carnival in March to the sad news that tropical and happy Brazil hadn’t been spared from the virus, contrary to what our clownish president J. Bolsonaro (a.k.a. Bozo) mockingly had promised would happen.
Companies, retailers, schools of all sorts were told to shut down and self-isolate. Initially social distancing was successful in some parts of Brazil – in March or April – when social distancing or stay at home campaigns reached the adherence of roughly 60% of the population. But as the days went by, and the virus didn’t seem to be THAT lethal, more and more people started wearing their masks under their chin instead of mouth and nose and getting more relaxed about large gatherings and crowds with people staying at home hovering at around 30%..
Back in January I had gloated that wife and I would never spend a Sabbath without going to church and just the thought sickened me to my stomach. Suddenly, in March churches were closed and now nine months later I feel like questioning myself -“why did I really make a point of going to church?”
Our English Sabbath School class went online and there it has been a source of fellowship and joy in the midst of all the bad news taking place.
All companies where I used to teach at shut their doors – if not to all employees – most certainly to all “nonessential” service providers – such as language teachers. Another hurtful 2020 keyword: “nonessential”. Are the Arts, Music, Education, physical contact not really essential?
My migration to Zoom was rather smooth – only one “Zoom bomb” incident – by the way, whose fault was it when the moronic teacher posted the meeting’s Zoom ID on Twitter – what was I thinking? (or not thinking? LOL) – I hadn’t used it before, but had already taught using FaceTime and Skype; had to learn some of the resources but at the same time I was reminded that “face time” is more important than all the gimmicks and tricks with PowerPoint or any other gaming gadget. Students need to see the teacher’s face more than a slide or special effects. The teacher must be focused on listening instead of looking at the next button to press or feeling turned on by their own image on the screen (chuckles).
Yes, a couple of students dropped out of classes because they didn’t “enjoy” online classes – (mind you, they not even bothered to try) but some new students joined the roster of my excellent learners and I was able to filter out those who need to find themselves before finding a teacher/tutor.
Hopefully I’ll be able to better use digital coursebooks in the coming year, honestly I didn’t come across any that grabbed my attention – I resigned myself to using PDF files of books I already knew. By the way, publishers will hopefully awake to the fact that learners need more than flashy photos with bells and whistles. Interactivity with the coursebook must involve vocabulary, pronunciation, listening, writing with resources to self record and verify accent and pronunciation; correct and explain grammar errors, etc.
Well, … it’s December 31 and what does the future hold? On a personal note, wife, and I and Luther will be moving to a new home in the countryside sometime in the first half of 2021. New place, new house, new people, new things to discover. I think that’s what the new year should invite us to do: Start 2021 with a purpose – to be different (and better) from who you were in 2020. If I can fulfill this resolution the dividends will be immeasurable.