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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. “Regardless of people who disagree with your posts, you are providing a topic and place for educators to come, reflect, and learn something.”

    I think ‘regardless’ is the wrong word. A place for educators to come, reflect, and learn INCLUDES people who disagree. Otherwise, it’s just a billboard.

  2. I think the reason is because most books targeted at teachers are badly written and have clearly been rushed through to make money off of school districts paying for them and forcing teachers to read them. Teachers get disillusioned with this process, which is clearly meant to take their money and do nothing for them.

    Your book, The Cornerstone, which I just bought, is an exception, of course :). I found it by accident, reading an old Teach for America teacher’s blog. That’s the only way I could have found it, though, because you can’t trust people’s reviews of teacher books. Many of them are clearly paid reviews.

    Case in point: http://www.amazon.com/Driven-Data-Practical-Improve-Instruction/dp/0470548746

    The blurb includes this sentence: “Bambrick-Santoyo offers vital tips, such as: how to create a data culture, how to run a successful data analysis meeting, how to write quality assessments, and how to deal with resistance from your teachers. ”

    So much PD is being written against teachers and not for them.

  3. Angela, I have been pondering a similar question, which is how do you inspire or motivate teachers to become more engaged? The reality is most teachers aren’t motivated and rarely seem to seek best practices or personal development without it being mandated by administration. I think some of it has to do with the mindset of most. Many teachers especially those who entered the profession through alternative certification dont fully understand the lifestyle of a teacher. Just as eating healthy and exercising is a lifestyle so is teaching. However if I approach the profession as a 9-5 then I lack knowledge. So it’s my opinion that some enter a profession but it’s not their calling, it’s not where their passion live it’s just another “job” or a means to an end. It doesn’t really matter how heavy the work load is learning and teaching are inseparable concepts and a teacher who lacks the desire or motivation to stay on the cutting edge or simply peruse best practices/ professional development for Pleasure and energy is in my opinion in the wrong profession as with many are. See as you’ve mentioned in your work there must be passion and internal grip and motivation to teach. And when the field if education jack educators it’s baffling and disheartening. So, as a stated in the beginning its gonna take a paradigm shift a mental mindset adjustment and individuals meditating and seeking their true purpose and passion because their lie all the motivation one needs to become a knowledge seeker. Until, people/educators learn “who they are” and WHY the field of unmotivated educators and students will forever exist. Thank you however for discovering your gift, passion, and purpose.

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