Imagine the following situation: You enter the classroom as a teacher and all the students are motivated to learn English today. The same situation would repeat every day. Would that not be awesome? Unfortunately it does not happen all the time. Actually it happens almost never. There is almost always one student who is not motivated because of reasons we cannot influence or change. Nevertheless there are some things we can change or influence when it comes to motivation.
The Teacher as an Idol
We cannot expect the student to be motivated if we are not motivated ourselves. If we want to stay in front of a motivated class we have to be motivated on our own. There is a psychological law which describes that we adapt our mood to the environment. So if there stayed a bored teacher in front of me I would not be motivated as a student as well. As a teacher we have to be motivated in teaching English. But what if we are not motivated? What if we have a lot of problems with our class? I would say that motivation is not something you can fakeover a longer period. Either you are or you are not. If you do not like to teach English then you should probably change your job. If you had problems with your class then you should work on it. Face the problem, talk to your class or set up rules.
The Class seems to be Unmotivated, is it my Fault?
Yes, to a certain degree it is your fault. Of course we do not have to take it personally when students seem to be bored. We cannot make everyone to like us or to like English. It is simply not possible. But we can help the students to learn something new. We can help the students to overcome certain anxieties or limiting beliefs. As soon as the students realize that they are good at something they start to like it. This is simple psychology. We like things where we are good at. This does not mean that we now have to start to give good marks to everyone, no. But we can give the students the impression that they did a good job and that they learned something. When it comes to motivation we probably have to focus more on psychology than on language learning. Positive feedback is the key to motivation. But again, we cannot and should not fake things. There is no reason why we should give positive feedback when student did not do anything correct. In my opinion many teacher do not use positive feedback enough. We tend to focus more on mistakes. Teachers often think that as long as the students make mistakes they did not do a good job. This is totally not true. Of course correctness is part of the things a teacher has to teach. But making the students more self-confident in speaking a foreign language is important as well. Every time our class is working intensively we should compliment them for good work. Positive feedback is one of the main keys to motivation.
Difficulty of the Task
Further we have to pay attention to the difficulty of the task or exercise. As soon as anactivity is too difficult we get frustrated or bored. The same thing happens when the task is too easy. As a teacher we need to know the level of our class very well. We have to know which exercises are too easy, too difficult or ideal for our class.
Create an Interesting Lesson
The last thing we have to pay attention to is the topic of the task or exercise. We have to create interesting tasks for our students. But what is interesting in our eyes may not be interesting in the student’s eyes. And what is interesting for class A may not be interesting for class B. When we prepare a lesson we have to take care of these facts. Of course we cannot create the perfect lesson for every class or student. But at least we can try it. The teacher spends several hours every week with the class he teaches. He should know what his class likes or what they dislike. If the class talks about music all the time, the teacher could try to include music in one of his next lessons.
Ideas to Increase Motivation
- English is not only a language but also a culture: Instead of only learning the language we could present something about the culture to the students. It does not matter if it is the American, Australian, English or Canadian culture. When I was in secondary school our English teacher prepared a typical British breakfast for us. This was a funny experience and something I will never forget. Further the same teacher presented “Monty Python” to us. She let as watch a movie and she wanted us to act out a scene of the movie.
- Present your life to the class. Students like to get to know the teacher’s life. Every English teacher spent some time in an English speaking country. From time to time the teacher could tell a funny story about his experiences or he could show some pictures.
- Talk with you students about the usefulness of English. It does not mean that you should persuade your students. But by talking about the usefulness of English, some students probably will realize that it is a “good thing”.
Teacher cannot Influence Everything
Motivation is a really tricky topic. There are so many things that could influence the student’s motivation. The student’s motivation is different in the first lesson in the morning at 8 o’clock than at 11 o’clock. These are things we cannot change. Probably a student has problems at home so that he cannot concentrate during class. Probably it happened something in the previous lesson and the students now are really nervous. If the students are going to have a difficult test in the next lesson they often think about the test ratherthan focusing on your lesson. Generally we have to mention that students are in a difficult age. Their body and their mind are changing during puberty. This is something we have to live with. This is part of our job.
Motivation is a really tricky topic. There are so many things that could influence the student’s motivation. On one hand there are some aspects we cannot chance. On the other hand we can do something to change the students’ motivation; by paying attention on positive feedback, difficulty and the topic of the task, we can change the motivation of the class. It is important not to take all things personally as a teacher. Students are in a difficult age and we have to live with it. The most important thing is, that we like English and that we feel good by teaching students new things.