Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Motivates You to Get Up in the Morning?

For me, it's my alarm that continues to ring, even after I've long silenced and snoozed the thing. I contemplate throwing my phone (which serves as my alarm clock) every single morning because I hate waking up. I don't know if I would get up more readily and easily if I had a job I enjoyed, but in the last three years of teaching, waking up in the morning has been unbearable.

So, it's not my job that motivates me to get out of bed, so much as the paycheck I get from working at this job. Oh, and now the harsh judgment passes on the faces of those who despise teachers who just educate for the paycheck. Well, yeah, I like getting paid and it's not much for the 60+ hours a week I put in, but it's still nice when it hits the bank and I'm not broke, as usual.

Okay, so it's partly the paycheck. Most special education teachers that I know aren’t teaching for just the money. In fact, when I figure in all the hours I work, it's usually something along the lines of like $6 an hour (that about $2 under minimum wage in the DC area, FYI). I also do it partly because I continue holding out hope that maybe today will be the day that I get to actually teach students.

Gosh, that's a great feeling. You teachers out there know what I'm talking about. It's the moment when you've engaged students in the classroom and captured their attention. This feeling is what I hope for each and every day when I come in. I guess after all this time, I'm still an optimist.

In any event, I began this post about what motivates me, which naturally has to lead into the question: what motivates our students? Especially inner city school students, because the middle-class and rich kids in the suburbs have a different motivation entirely. But what motivates urban youth who come from generations of poverty?

I often wonder why my students even bother coming to school at all. Some come and do nothing. Some come and are a complete disruption to class. Why are they here? I think they come because they have built a connection with their teachers. They are holding out hope (just like me) that maybe today will be the day they learn something. Today will be the day that it clicks in their brains.

Well, here's to another day of teaching. There's only about 24 left in the school year for me, so I'm going to continue to fight the good fight while I'm still in the battle.


  1. Hmmm... I'm not so sure. A good portion of my kids come because their friends are at school. They also know they can generally get away with anything, and with promotion policy the way it is, they'll likely be moved to the next grade despite doing very little work.

    Also, some come to recruit gang members.

    And then there are those who come because they yearn to learn.

  2. How do you teach in an environment of chaos? In a world of poverty you go to school where a little less chaos exists then the home environment you leave and go home to everyday.

    I believe there are many factors involved in the struggle of inner cities (which also happens in the suburbs but to a lesser degree) that we miss the things that work in order to play politics, advance agendas, struggle for power, to feed our ego of intellectualism. We have socially engineered many of our schools to fit the vision of a select few. Washington DC is being scandalized by test scores that have been altered. Since when does a test score measure the dignity of a child? When does a test score see the pain inside the child? I’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child but the village that raised the children of this generation has given them hell as an environment to learn in. We don’t need more scholars to plan more failed curriculum to advance their social agendas of perceived success with a record of dismal failure. What we need are caring people who show that they care (by showing their love) for that child. When a child sees that….they will engage themselves to what you’re teaching. Love makes a sponge of the mind.