Intrinsic and External Motivation

Having been a teacher since 1997, I’ve analyzed myself and other teachers quite a bit. One thing I have come to identify is when I am working and planning from internal motivation as opposed to external. Internal motivation has to do with ideals and morals. It is the extra plan you make for Johnny who is in fourth grade and still can barely read (hypothetical name and situation). It is the goals you set for yourself as a teacher and the expectations you set for your kids based on what you think is their best interest.

The external motivation is your evaluator. It is the way you will be perceived. It means putting up a wall that is required as opposed to using creativity to make it your own. I admit we cannot escape external demands on our profession. We must adhere, to a degree, to the required parameters we are mandated to. At the same time, I think it is abhorrent that some teachers identify this as the bare minimum and they only go as far is the external motivators require. There must be a balance.

Someone I knew at the district where I work died today. He was quite young and had a lot going for him professionally. Though he wasn’t in the classroom, he was revolutionizing the profession with technology and training hordes of teachers to use his website. His death was sudden and unexpected. It touched me because I respected his internal motivation. It was clear he wanted to help teachers and students succeed and accomplish great things in math. I remember him that way.

This has me thinking once again about my own motivation. If I want to be remembered for something I ought to be doing it. That is where the internal motivation comes in. Am I being true to my conscience as I plan and teach kids? Or, rather am I getting by on the bare minimum of mandates. Also, health needs to be a concern. It’s not always the I feel the best idea to work harder, sometimes you need to stop chopping and sharpen your axe. teachers are ones who can exceed mandates while being true to their own morals and values as educators. If this post does anything for you I would hope it caused you to ask yourself what your own mandates are. I call that internal motivation.

Author: Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

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