Why Do They Do It?

What motivates a person, after a long day of teaching, to spend their evenings coaching, preparing engaging lessons, or creating and planting a beautiful school garden?

There is no merit pay.  No bonuses.  So why do they do it?

Desire? Fun? Sense of purpose? Passion?  These are a few reasons that keep people intrinsically motivated to continue to participate in activities that, in turn, benefit our students.  I believe that schools are full of people that put in endless extra hours to make our students’ time at school that much better.

I used to believe that the only way to make progress in education was if everyone was moving in the same direction.  However, goals that are set for others are often ineffective; I now feel that it is more important if people are moving in the direction of their strengths.  There has been much talk about focusing on student strengths but I also believe we need to do this with our staff members.  Through this, we can encourage staff members to spend time and to become leaders in any area in which they are passionate; these leaders will help move our schools forward in many positive directions by bringing students and other staff members with them.

So, as leaders (with limited funding), how do we tap into this motivation and encourage our staff members to continue to focus on their strengths and interests?

  • Support them with interest – listen and support by being there for a planning meeting, sporting event, worker bee, etc.
  • Support them with funding – this can be a challenge but even small amounts can help. Is there something that needs to be purchased? Are there grants available? Can you support their fundraising? Can PAC help?
  • Support them with time – cover their class, combine their class with yours, provide some release time. At our school we have scheduled in one period a week where teachers teach ANYTHING in which they are passionate; students then choose the activity that interests them (ecology, Pirates, geology, drawing, web page design, ball hockey, drama, lego construction, First Nation weaving, etc).
  • Support them with knowledge – help them to find a workshop, conference, or online chat session that will help fuel the fire
  • Support them with people – help them to find people in the school, community, district, or anywhere online (ie. Twitter and other social media) that share the same interests and passions.  Sharing ideas and collaborating can only further motivate.

To motivate people to do things in the area of their strengths requires very little money and effort.  We all just need to listen and become aware of what strengths exist within our staffs and then finds ways to focus our efforts there.

So, why do they do it?  Because they love to do it!

I would love to hear more ideas on how to encourage and tap into the strengths of staff members so please comment.  Are your strengths being utilized at your school?

For a great read on motivation, read Daniel Pink‘s “Drive”.

For more of my views on education, visit The Wejr Board Blog or follow me on Twitter.

2 Comments

  1. Malcolm said:

    They …being the teachers. I can give you a 100 reasons why teachers should not to do anything extra, but in the end our job sucks if you suck as a teacher/mentor/coach. The job is not only in the classroom.
    I would guess that the majority of teachers are teachers because of their teachers. That is why I teach. They (my teachers) were extraordinary.

    Support is good.
    Communication is better.
    Confidence is best.

    Malcolm
    @malchkiey

    September 22, 2010
  2. Chris Wejr said:

    Thanks for the response Malcolm. The challenge for us is to help everyone to realize their strengths and work towards gaining this confidence, which in turn will help develop leaders.

    September 22, 2010

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