What Motivates Teachers to Teach?

Author: Birdie Champ, B.S., Ed.D, Director of Education

What motivates teachers? Well, obviously not money! If you’ve met a teacher who has chosen the profession because it pays well, let me know where they are working! Teachers have a passion for teaching; we live for the expression on a student’s face when they ‘get it’. I can’t tell you how many times I had to hold back tears of pride in my class. Can you imagine an inner-city 15 y.o. gang leader rapping about the digestive system in the front of class? Come on, you’d cry too! It’s an emotionally rewarding (and exhausting!) job, but really…who does it for the money?!

Last week, results from the Teachers Advancement Program model, TAP, were realeased. TAP compared student performance results in classrooms where teachers were offered a finical incentive of $1,100, to classrooms where teachers were not offered a finical incentive. Guess what? There was no difference. To be fair, these results are preliminary, and there are problems with how student performance was assessed. But give a teacher a break! Teachers know that good learning is a result of an internal motivation to learn, and principals know that good teaching is the result of an internal motivation to teach. External motivations like candy, stickers, or money (i.e., dangling a silly cubic zirconium bedazzled carrot) in either situation will work in the immediate circumstance, but not in the long run. Perhaps if the occupation as a whole was in a higher payscale, more STEM content experts would be willing to go into teaching, but offering a teacher an extra $27.50 a week to do her/his job better leans toward insult.

My fear is that this data will be used against teachers, as they campaign for fair wages. Read here about the TAP study.rotten carrot

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