Schools are beginning to reawaken after a summer siesta – in North America and parts of Europe anyways. I’m still three weeks out from starting day and in the midst of a major house reno so I’m not really thinking too much about school although it has drifted across my vision a few times. The work on the house has taken me away from my pre-summer attachment to the “Wrinkled world” and I’ve found that it has been refreshing to do other things. Having said that, I have noticed a recent trend in the Twitter talk of late. It seems that many of the educators are not really looking forward to their first day sessions with motivational speakers and the like.

Why Motivation?

When I put out the question regarding what might my subject be for this post, I received this response:

Maybe you could write about why we are subjected to motivational non-education speakers the first few days of inservice?

The light bulb went off. Why indeed. What is the reason for having educators listen to a motivational speaker on the first day of school? In my limited experience, teachers don’t need motivation to start the year. If anything, they need something about February or March. However, what is even more interesting is why there seems to be a universal truism that teachers need to listen to non-educators during these times. What is the reason for bringing in people outside the educational sphere? Do they have something that educational speakers lack? Is there a lack of “good” educational motivational speakers?

With the question now smoldering in the back of my mind, I went back to my house renos. I do quite a bit of thinking while I’m renovating and the next few hours had me pondering this whole idea of the need for motivational speakers from outside the educational realm. And the more I thought about it, the more it perplexed me to why we’re not listening to another educator of some sort. Do we really need that motivation to begin our year? Do we need the slogan to carry us through the year? Aren’t teachers some of the most motivated people around? Or….

are the years of public bashing of education and educators taking their toll. We continue to see teachers shortages all over with it getting worse not better. We lack the presence of male teachers in elementary settings and, it seems, it is beginning to be a worry in the middle and high school setting also. We see new teachers trying the profession for a few years and moving on. Is there indeed a lack of motivation in educators? Or is this a perceived lack that really isn’t true?

As a leader in a relatively small school, I am able to talk with the teachers about such things as PD and the first day sessions. Now, it’s not that they don’t think that this time together with other teachers from other schools isn’t good but, because it is at the beginning, some feel it would be better spent at the school doing things that are priority for those in the building. They feel that working towards building a great start to the year might be the best motivation of all. They want to  have things ready for that first day with students, wanting to set a particular tone that will carry them through the year. To them, that is motivational.

Maybe we’re trying to hard to bring the corporate world into the schools by offering these first day motivationals. We see places like Toyota and Wal-Mart brining in motivational speakers for their employees. However, with the number of talented people who work in a building, maybe we could find a way to tap these talents to offer an in-house motivational day, setting a tone for the year, an expectation of what could be and where we can go together. What if we did this with the kids the first day? What if, instead of starting right into the year, we began with a motivational day for students? What type of reaction would we get? What if parents were invited to come to the day at the school and teams of teachers were to give “motivational” sessions on a variety of topics? Could we mix students and parents? Could it be we need to reevaluate our purpose for the first day sessions? Bringing someone in to motivate teachers might be less effective than providing the other partners with motivation for the school year. I wonder if the SRC would be willing to lead a motivational set for parents?

No Lack of Motivation

As I see it, teachers are usually motivated for that first day. They are wanting to start the year and begin to set the course for the upcoming days. They are there because they want to be there and want to help students. They are motivated to do and to try. They don’t lack motivation – those that do don’t last long and no amount of motivational speaking will change that. During a time when education seems to taking some serious heat about student test scores and student achievement, is it really necessary to bring someone from outside education to motivate the educators?

Your Motivation

So, what is your motivation? Do you need motivating in some way? Does your staff? If asked, would you be able to put together a day that would inspire and motivate the people in your building? Do you know where there is a need for motivation? As leaders, we have the responsibility to the staff, students and parents in our school communities to make sure that each group is motivated. If we see one, or part of one, group that is not motivated, can we provide that “motivational day” that will light the spark?

Well, back to the renos. I have a whole set of cupboard doors to work on. What’s my motivation for this? Knowing that, at the end, someone I love will be happy. That motivation, in a sense, is what we do at schools. It’s not the monitary rewards or other things that gets me to go to school. It’s knowing that, maybe, someday, what I am doing today will impact these students a some point in their lives. When and how I have no idea. Just as these renovations really won’t change the monetary value of the house a whole lot in a small town but, seeing how the people in my house enjoy their new surroundings and spending time doing the work, hoping that time will influence them some time in the future, that’s the motivation. The final product will be nice but the act of doing is what is important.

This year, as I begin to prepare to head back to school, I’m focusing on the actions of what I do and paying attention to the journey. So, what’s motivating you?

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