Russ Walsh writes that corporate reformers have no idea what motivates teachers so they impose their own flawed ideas. Few have ever taught. They listen to economists, most of whom see education as an economic activity, not a humanistic activity.

First, they decided that the teacher is the most important determinant of student test scores (not true, the best predictor of student scores is family income and education). Then they decide that the best way to motivate teachers to work harder is to devise a system of rewards and punishments. Scores will rise, they reason, if teachers are threatened with loss of their careers.

But this is all wrong. Teachers are not motivated by carrots and sticks.

What motivates teachers?

Teachers are motivated by students.

“Nothing can motivate a teacher to be well-prepared and perform at peak ability more than the simple fact their will be 25 or so faces looking at you in the morning, waiting for you to teach them. When students have a moment of insight, teachers feel empowered. When a student is struggling to understand, the teacher is motivated to find a way to get through.”

Teachers are motivated by teaching.

“Teaching is intrinsically rewarding. For those of us who chose to go into the profession, teaching is fun. It is energizing. I have had many times in my life when I didn’t feel particularly well or when I was tired and then I began to teach and I felt better, more energized. I can teach myself awake and I have seen many other teachers who do the same thing.”

Teachers are motivated by good working conditions.

“While a reasonable living wage is certainly important to every teacher, in my experience in hiring teachers, I have found them to be more interested in the working conditions they will find in the school where they will work. What working conditions matter? Reasonable class sizes. Adequate resources to do the job. Adequate planning time. A clean building in good repair. Supportive administrators. Suportive and engaged parents. Friendly and supportive colleagues.”

Please, reformers, read the whole post and learn what motivates teachers.