Reflecting on why you became a Secondary Teacher

In this second extract from his new book Understanding and Supporting Behaviour through Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Guide for Secondary Teachers, Victor Allen considers the importance of reflection and of being aware of your own motivational forces:

Reflection
Whenever I talk with a teacher who is going through a tough time at school, I ask them these questions.

• Why did you get into teaching?
• What was it that made the choice for you?

These questions help them look back to the start of their career and try to capture the force that motivated them.

To start this time of reflection for yourself, I want you to consider your answers to the following questions. Record the answers, with the date on which you answered them, as a record of how your thoughts or ideas change or don’t change over your teaching career.

Why have you chosen teaching as a career? The following are some possible responses, but it is important to find the answer that is truly yours.

• I was inspired by a teacher and wanted to do the same.
• I have a passion for the subject and want to share it.
• I love passing on knowledge.
• It has always been my chosen career (even played at being a teacher with teddies).
• I wanted to change careers and teaching looked good.
• Nothing else looked any good.
• I love working with young people.
• I followed what my parents did.
• I wanted to give something to society.
• I felt called by God.

What is the best thing about the job?
• The people I work with.
• The students.
• The freedom in your classroom.
• Your form group.
• The holidays.
• The chance of promotion.
• The money.
• Feeling a part of a team.
• Inspiring others about a subject.

You will be surprised at the variety of answers I get in response to these questions. This is just a small sample, but it is a very good motivational tool, as it helps understand why people continue to thrive in what can be a very stressful situation.

What is your own personal vision or philosophy of life?
Helen Keller, probably the most well-known blind person who has ever lived, was once asked what would be worse than being born blind. Her answer: ‘To have sight without vision.’

It is important to think through what you are aiming to achieve on a variety of fronts that meet your personal goal and philosophy of life. This should include your family, your work and your career as well as your personal life. It needs to be the very mantra that drives you and moves throughout all that you are seeking to accomplish. Try to be as brief as you can and also try to make sure that it is one that can be easily explained to others.

I like two words, excellence and fun. Consider this:

If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all, because if it’s not excellent, it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in the business for fun or for profit, what the hell are you doing there?
Townsend, 2007 , p 40

Throughout my family, work and personal life, I try to keep those two words in mind. They enable me to question what I am doing and to check I am achieving my standards of excellence and fun. I expect those working for me to know that this is a philosophy that also includes them. It enables me to direct conversations using those words as a marker of my standard to work towards. Notice I use my standards, as this is personal philosophy: I could ask lots of people what they understand to be the meaning of those words and they will also respond with a slightly different slant.

Critical questions

(i) Who has had the most influence on your life to date?
(ii) Have they taught you things that now direct your life in a positive manner?
(iii) Are you influenced more by your culture than your own personal beliefs?
(iv) How much of ‘you’ do you bring to the classroom to motivate others towards their own greatness?

Chapter 2: Young People and Behaviour pp35-37

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