Short-term– Create a list of quotes, songs, images, videos, and more that inspire you to be a great educator. Share this list with us. Then let us know where you will place these sources of inspiration so that you will see them daily and they will fuel you with the passion and motivation to be an inspired educator.
Long-term– You have other personal goals to accomplish. Begin to find sources of inspiration for those goals and place them where you will constantly see them. Begin to have rituals such as running and listening to a playlist that will help inspire you to live life on fire. Have your students create these lists as well and motivate them to feed themselves with inspiration to accomplish their goals.
Once again, I’m totally doing the 30 goals project out of order, because I can! So rather than following up on missing goal #3, I’m doing Goal 5: Feed Yourself Inspiration. And actually, I just was exposed to a really awesome way to keep sources of inspiration of a different kind with you, so I may blog on that later.
Honestly, I don’t have an inspiration altar. I’m not really the sort of teacher that does this for the inspiration and the love so much. But I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to make one virtually. In the process I discovered that I have two or three distinct sets of inspiration. One set is the past work of my students, as well as cards and gifts from them. It reminds me that despite everything we go through in the classroom, the late homework, the blank stares, the anger when I tell them they are failing, the frustration when they don’t get it, the clock-watching, these are creative and brilliant people before me many of whom genuinely appreciate and respect our work. I would add video of so many classes where students told me they liked me, or thanked me for a certain lesson. Or graduation where students thank all their teachers. If I had those moments videotaped, of course. So this photo of a representative sample will have to do:
There are a few quotes that influence how I teach. A lot of them are lost to time, scribbled on bits of paper here and there or underlined in books. I know Grammar Uncovered had some excellent quotes in it that captured my feelings on grammar and language, but BBBBAC has it. However somewhere along the line I either picked up (in a Thornbury-y or Larsen-Freemanian place) or, possibly, coined:
Grammar is a set of tools, not rules.
Which sums up how I feel about teaching grammar as something that allows students to express meaning as opposed to teaching them rules to memorize. It’s also a reminder that language is changing and that sometimes fluency is more important than accuracy. I, for one, like the use of “like” in sentences like, “I was like, “Oh my God, what the hell are you talking about?” and he was all like, “OK, whatever” to summarize a conversation emotionally.
I did manage to dig this other quote up from TOEFL.org Certificate course, which came from a reflection by one of my fellow teacher/students (a non-native teacher as it happens):
In the winter, an icy stream flows down a mountain, moving and changing as it desires. However, the ice that forms along the edges of the stream – though it is made of the water itself – constrains the stream. At times, it even dictates where it may flow and where it may not. The English language is like this stream, and the rules and patterns set in place by linguists are the ice. Indeed, they recognize and record the current state of language, but the very patterns they recognize often force the language into a set of rules that consequently dictate how the language may be used from then on.
I also remember a professor at my university once telling my then-girlfriend something to the effect of (He was like…):
I hate teachers who say they learn more from their students than the other way around. The day my students are teaching me more than I am teaching them is the day I retire.
which is curmudgeoniacal enough for me to appreciate. But also it reflects something important about teachers. We are expected to know stuff. You can’t teach students unless you know your material, despite all the good intentions and desire to inspire. Students don’t come to class to join the Dead Poet’s Society. They come to learn the subjunctive, so we better be prepared to teach them the subjunctive correctly.
And finally, not an inspiration, but a song that always relaxes me after a long stressful day at work. I don’t speak Spanish and I’m not religious, but there’s something about the opening that just makes my shoulders untense immediately:
EDIT: I stumbled on another wonderful quote from Tessa Woodward on a good classroom that deserved its own post.If you liked this post, you might enjoy my book, 50 Activities for the First Day of School, a collection of rapport building and community creating activities.