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Uncategorized   |   Nov 15, 2011

Why aren’t most educators motivated to learn?

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Why aren’t most educators motivated to learn?

By Angela Watson

There’s a lot of talk right now about how students are naturally curious and want to learn about their world, but the performance-focused atmosphere of school squelches that desire. The concept that child-centered ed reformers are pushing is this: if we give kids more freedom to learn what they want to learn the way they want to learn it, they will eventually master the skills they need to and be successful in school and in life.

I’ve never fully bought into that idea, as much as I like it on a theoretical level. And the more I analyze the behavior of educators, the more I’m convinced it’s not completely true.

Because most educators don’t learn just for the sake of learning. We are just as disengaged and apathetic as the kids are.

Anyone know an educator who went into this field for the money? Of course not. We’re all working in schools because deep down inside somewhere, there’s a desire to make a difference in the lives of kids. There’s some aspect of this field that we are inherently passionate about and are emotionally invested in.

So why are so few educators on Twitter or using social media to expand their repertoire of best practices?

Why don’t they attend conferences regularly, including ones that are totally online and completely free?

Why don’t they read the latest books about educational research and discuss them with others?

Why are so few educators engaged in self-directed professional development in their free time?

Most teachers, coaches, principals, and other school workers that I know in “real life” don’t read professional books or engage in conversations with other educators online. For them, work stays at work whenever possible, and there’s zero crossover to their personal lives if they can help it. They hate the professional development they’re forced to attend but don’t seek out answers to their problems on their own. Some may do a Google search for lesson materials on occasion, but they’re not looking to explore the latest educational trends or find ways to transform the way their students learn with 21st century teaching methods. They just want a printable worksheet to go with tomorrow’s activity.

Education is one of my my primary hobbies and I genuinely enjoy the time I spend reading, writing, and conversing about it. I’ve always been a “teacher nerd” who loved to devour Fountas and Pinnell in my free time and comb the web for new ideas. I realize that not everyone has that personality type, and some people would rather pursue other interests and hobbies in their limited spare time. But if we’re all supposedly curious at heart–and all interested in the field of education on some level–why don’t we all invest in our own professional learning? Where is the natural curiosity and desire to grow?

If we as educators don’t exhibit a desire to learn and improve, how can we expect that of our students?

This post is the closest I’ve ever come to teacher-bashing, and that’s SO not my intention here. Obviously, I’m not talking about YOU–the very fact that you’re reading this proves I’m preaching to the choir, because the 85% of teachers I’m referring to wouldn’t visit my blog, anyway. I’m just feeling a little disheartened and disillusioned with the fact that so many great ideas in education–ideas that could change the world for our students–are just floating around in an echo chamber. What’s the solution? Or more precisely…what’s the problem?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. “Because most educators don’t learn just for the sake of learning. We are just as disengaged and apathetic as the kids are.”

    You’re right. How dare I read into things that aren’t there.

    Nice touch including yourself there: “We”. Nice touch, indeed.

    1. You may disagree with my tone (even though I was clear my intent was not to offend, and I obviously don’t take myself too seriously.) But are you actually disagreeing with the content of my post–the statement that most educators don’t learn just for the sake of learning? Would you say that most educators DO learn for the sake of learning? Are most (that is, more than 50% of) teachers attending conferences, reading self-selected professional books, and/or using blogs and social media to learn about best practices simply because they enjoy learning?

  2. “Obviously, I’m not talking about YOU–the very fact that you’re reading this proves I’m preaching to the choir, because the 85% of teachers I’m referring to wouldn’t visit my blog, anyway.”

    So is that it then? If people read your blog, they’re covered? A lot of people watch TMZ and read the Enquirer too. I guess that defines them. We’re getting a little MacLuhan here, aren’t we?

    By the way, I showed this post to my students. They think you’re ‘a piece of work’ . That’s a quote. They’re 13…

    1. If they’re reading my blog, then they’re not one of those teachers who don’t read education blogs, right?

      I’d love to hear what your students had to say about the topic of teacher disengagement and student disengagement. Sounds like a great discussion.

  3. I don’t read education blogs in a regular basis. I’m reading your post because you made an inflammatory statement meant to attract readers. Mission accomplished.

    I also read graffiti in bathroom stalls too. Doesn’t make it Shakespeare.

    You want to know why most educators aren’t motivated to learn? Because while we’re in the trenches with students, we have talking heads who say they’re on our side lobbing grenades at us. Here’s a question: Why did YOU leave the classroom? Better yet, if you felt that you served people better THIS way, why did you even start teaching in the first place? Why not just start writing?

    And lastly, some teachers (see how I used ‘some?) don’t ‘learn’ the way you think they should- instead they learn about their students. They learn how to interact with them, what they need or want. They learn what makes them tick. They learn what troubles them.

    I’d take that ‘learning’ over a free online course any day.

    But that’s just me.

    1. THIS comment is the reason why I’ve continued to banter back and forth with you. It was obvious that you had something deeply important to say and I’m glad you eventually moved past the parts of my post you didn’t like and expressed your opinion on the topic at hand. What you just wrote was powerful. Thank you for sharing that.

  4. Yes, I’m sure. Your plan coming to fruition, is it?

    The reasoning for your banter is your own, but please don’t try to pass it off as drawing out issues. It’s bearbaiting at best. Otherwise your post wouldnt have had the level of condescension it did.

    And to use ‘open discussion’ to draw out opinions is patronizing at best. I didnt write it to have it be recognized as ‘powerful’. My point is to fight the ‘those who can’t, teach’ – attitude of your post. And thats what it is, let’s not mince words.

    Those who can’t, teach. Ha!
    Those who can’t teach preach about it like they can.

    Good luck to you. And, if possible, try to ease up on the patronizing font in your reply. We’re all a little above that, here in the trenches.

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