What motivates teachers?

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So it’s Sunday night before I find any time at all to look at my netvibes page and the 200+ readings waiting for me. Pick and choose it the only way to get through them, although I know I’m missing some good stuff.

I did find time at 6am this morning to submit 4 entries to the K12 online conference. Had a good talk with our PD Coordinator and this week will start the process to get college credits for those that join me for the conference. I already have 4 people who say they are in and more who are waiting to see if they’ll get college credit for the class.

That bothers me a little bit, that teachers need a motivation to learn. I need the credits as much as the next guy, don’t get me wrong. But when people come to me and say, “Let me know if you get credit for the class, if you do, I’d be interested” it bothers me. Are those the kind of people I want joining me for the conference? The kind that come for credit and not for the conversation? Does/can life long learning only take place if you get some kind of credit for it? If so I waste a lot of time on my own 25% PD every week.

I know there are a lot of teachers out there that this doesn’t apply to, but there are also a lot of teachers that it does apply too. What if we were doctors and only updated our skills when we got credit for it, or when it was time to renew our license. What would our patients say? What would our parents and students say?

We are all pressed for time, and we are all doing a million things. If technology isn’t your thing then please don’t come, but if you truly feel that this conference and the conversation that we will have can benefit you and your students, then I welcome you to our little gathering here in Shanghai!


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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff,
    Thanks for this post. I struggle with this same question all the time. Teachers who tell me they don’t have the time to pick up the phone and even report a technical support issue with their computers for two weeks but they’d be happy for me to take time away from actually helping teachers use technology just to fix the problem that they couldn’t be bothered to call in.

    I’ve seen this question come up time and again. I agree with your analogy about doctors as well – they MUST keep up with their profession. Some teachers seem to get into the profession though, thinking that all they have to do is stand up in front of the room and that skill will carry them through their careers. Others are continually renewing their learning and adjusting to the needs of their students. I suppose that’s what makes us all individuals – some are life long learners and some are only extrinsically motivated.

    What about administrators? How do they keep up with their learning? How do they model for their teachers the act of personal professional development that’s not driven by whether or not credit is received? I’m wondering if leadership styles and models affect this in any way as well.

  2. I agree 100% – teachers should be much more willing to continue their learning, and I complain about this frequently – however, in this day and age of NCLB (yeah, I know I hate bringing it up all the time – but it is obtrusive, no way around it) where teachers are required and sometimes persuaded vigorously to atend this literacy conference or class or inservice or that, along with taking classes to move up the pay scale – none of which value anything but literacy and maybe math – teachers are often “up-to-here” with continueing their learning on anything else. I had many teachers leave comments on class evaluations for trainings I’ve given that they loved learning about the tech and project-based learning, but their principal would be all over them like a bad smell if they deviated from “The Program” at their school “…so I’m not quite sure how I’m going to ever use this class I just finished.”

  3. I’ve noticed the same problem and I have a hard time dealing with these types of teachers. I’ve worked in many different fields, and opportunities for professional development have always been welcomed by my colleagues. Teachers, though — that’s another story altogether….

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