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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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A Simple Way to Stay Motivated as Teacher

I have discovered a simple, yet effective way to remain inspired as a teacher. It costs nothing, does not take much time, and always works.

Before I reveal “my secret,” I want to address the topic of motivation and teacher burnout. The teacher dropout rate within the first, five years has ranged from 17 to as high as 50 percent, depending on what study you read. Nevertheless, teacher retention has remained a concern in the profession. If you have taught in k-12 public schools for any measure of time, you know it’s hard, demanding, often unthankful work (at least it feels that way). I advise pre-service teachers that it’s critical they develop their own ways to stay motivated. A practical, go-to technique or techniques that keep you going.

You are probably still wondering what my simple method is. Enough already, you are saying. So here it is:

I kept letters and notes from students in my wallet and, whenever, I felt the need, I read them. That’s it. But it worked! I collected letters and notes over the years that were so moving, that whenever I read them they evoked emotion, namely inspiration. Before I share an excerpt from each letter, I want to point out that it doesn’t have to be a letter.

Maybe a parent wrote an inspiring e-mail, print that out and keep it on your person. Maybe it’s a drawing that a child created for you. An essay they wrote in class. What matters is that it inspires you—that it gets you through those dark days when nothing seems to be working; you lessons are falling flat; the students seem distracted; administration is demanding more paperwork. We all have those days as teachers. You need a trinket- a reminder about why you teach, and that you do make a difference in students’ lives.

I’ll end this blog with an excerpt from each letter (these words truly inspired me).

“You planted a seed in my head, it never stops growing because of you. You gave me soil and water and of course sun to help it grow until it plops out of my head. You’re the best teacher ever.”

“Anytime, I see Mr. Haberlin he always has time to at least say hi to me and ask how I am. The difference with him is I can tell he really does want to talk to me. A lot of teachers seem to rush things when they talk to me. Mr. Haberlin isn’t like that. He had made me feel important since the first day I met him.”