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  • Motivation: Teachers need it too

    Claire Hart

    Motivating Business English learners is often a challenge. Interrupting the work you need to get done by the end of the day to come to class, having to get to work two hours before your shift starts for class or coming to class because your boss has told you that you have to: these are among the circumstances which can have a negative effect on our learners´ motivation. As Business English teachers, however, we are very understanding of these circumstances. We do everything in our power to motivate: we negotiate clear and achievable learning goals with our course participants and then give them indicators of the progress they are making toward these goals. We vary the types of activities we give them, bring in some new technology- “Did you know that you can download this vocabulary app on your smartphone and use it to practice your English while you´re commuting to work?”  

    Don´t get me wrong, as far as I´m concerned, motivating our learners to learn is one of the most important parts of our job. If they´re not motivated to attend our courses, then we have no courses, essentially.  My point is rather this: that in the midst of all this talk of learner motivation, we might have forgotten that our own motivation to teach is equally important. In fact, learner motivation and teacher motivation co-exist symbiotically. If the teacher isn´t motivated to teach, then why should the learners be motivated to learn?

    Unfortunately though, many of our number are de-motivated. They´re fed up with Mr. X,  who frequently sends them an email half an hour before the planned lesson to cancel it, by which point they were already on the underground travelling to his office. They don´t appreciate the fact that they have to spend additional (unpaid) time preparing tests for their learners so that the Human Resources department can say to the top team: “Look, the money you´re spending on English training is money well-spent.” What can we do to motivate ourselves as Business English teachers? This is the question I would like to pose and go some way toward answering.

    I teach in-companies in Southern Germany and I also have my Mr. X and moments of de-motivation: none of us are immune to them, I think. I would, nevertheless, describe myself as a highly motivated teacher, overall.  Why? Well, here are some of the things which I have found to be effective boosts to my motivation:

    1.  Talk to other teachers who are passionate about what they´re doing and love their jobs. Let them inspire you with their infectious enthusiasm and also ask them practical questions like: so, how do you deal with this situation? How do you cope with this? If you don´t have the opportunity to talk face-to-face or email passionate teachers, you can find them on Twitter. Some of the tweeting teachers who motivate me the most and also give me a lot of practical teaching ideas and interesting links are those whose tweets you´ll find if you search for #BESIG or #besig. I´m often at my most motivated on my return from a workshop or conference though, having spent time exchanging ideas and experiences with other teachers over a coffee or a cocktail and learning useful tips and techniques in the sessions I´ve attended that I can then take home with me and use in my classroom.

    2.  Innovate in the classroom. Don´t be afraid to try out the new ideas you´ve gotten from others, use a new course book or try a different error correction technique. However big or small, make a change to the way you teach and it´s bound to stimulate you and help you get out of any ruts you may have gotten into. You´ll also no longer feel like you´re just running on auto-pilot when you´re in the classroom.

    3. Create your own content which is personalized to your participants´ learning needs, their jobs, their companies and their industries, or adapt the materials you already have to achieve the same effect. I know it takes time, but the positive feedback you´ll get from your learners if you do, does wonders for your motivation levels. It also gives you the feeling that you´re not just some photocopying robot but someone who is actually creating something.

    There are, of course, many other ways in which you can boost your motivation. If anyone has any tips they´d like to share on this question, please leave a comment below and join the discussion.

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