The #1 ….. (motivation for teachers)

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.

A “Good” Pay Check

Once you wipe away your idealism or walk the talk as a teacher – you will conclude that there is no more powerful way to make a “great teacher” than a nice, solid, reliable pay check.

I remember my days in the Toronto District School Board. I taught in a few “working class” schools. Lots of great teachers but lots of problems. Like a war zone on many days and on most days, lots of teachers walking around with scowls and a heaviness upon them.

Yet, come every second Thursday – what life! Exuberance and euphoria. Classrooms were active and filled with learning. I remember when we got our union fought retroactive “pay increase” OMG! What teaching, wondrous lessons pulled out of a hat! For weeks on end…. Could you imagine this Grade 4 teacher doing a great job?

So however idealistic you or myself may think / appear – we should also know the score. It is much easier to be a great teacher if you feel like you are getting paid well.

Here’s a recent one week poll of EFL Classroom members about if they are getting their proper motivation!

Are you well paid? If not, you should be! 80% of teaching is caring enough to just show up, IMHO.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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6 Responses

  1. Natalia says:

    The fact of the matter is, however, that companies (as most schools should be seen nowadays) want to pay less and less and demand more and more of teachers. In Brazil most teachers have at least 2 if not 3 jobs. Each of these demands a lot of paper filling and meetings and the like. So you can imagine when these teachers study the language, read about teaching and learning or think further about a lesson or a student… Never! I often say we teach McEnglish here. Not good for you, but quickly made and one size fits all.

    P.S.: That paycheck you show is actually an “OMG, OMG, I’m rich” sum for teachers down here, even though my birth town has been recently considered more expensive than New York. *sighs*

  2. ddeubel says:


    Good point and I agree that it is getting worse in most corners of the globe vis a vis teachers/work load / pay. And I guess your point is also that we shouldn’t just think of the money but also consider the workload or salary/actual work hour.

    Yes, she is rich (though look at how much tax is taken!). I just wanted to post up an actual teachers pay stub – this was the only public (anonymous) one I could find. But you can’t talk money without some “reality”. She is also a category “8” which means 8 years or more experience… Canadian teachers do get paid well but also work so much. Lots of stress and non teaching duties.

    I’m really for teachers anywhere in the world sticking together to create and have some bargaining power. But that’s a hard one in many parts of the world but I hope technology/the internet might make that easier….

    Thanks for dropping by.


  3. archaeologist says:

    I will disagree with the concept that pay is the single most important motivator for a teacher. In fact it should be one of the least as it puts money ahead of the student and their needs.

    Having money as the top priority teaches the student that they are not as important as an inanimate object and creates in them an insecurity that should not be evident. The teacher should hold the student above such material items because their job is full of responsibility and you cannot teach students who learn that they are not important to the teacher.

    Those people who think they are teachers yet put salary, vacations, benefits and cancelled classes as their priority/motivator need to be removed from the classroom for all they contribute to is the decline of society not its accension.

    Teachers are there to teach, to educate to show the correct way to go and do not over-rule parental guidance but simply present what the student needs to know and let the student make up their own minds. We do not brainwash, attack, negatively criticize, demean, dis-respect, and so on, our students but hold them in high regard and strive to present to them the best material so that they are prepared to face the real life challenges and can feel confident that they have been given the sufficient tools to do so.

    Thus the #1 motivator for teachers is LOVE. Love for their students, love that enables them to teach regardless of how they are treated or paid. If one decides they cannot survive on the salary offered then such teachers need to decline the offer instead of demanding, complaining etc. about not being paid well.

    That love should motivate the teacher to fight to present the best material, in a manner that is conducive to their employer’s wishes and does not undermine their employer at all. They need to set the right example for their students so the school does not lose its authority or capibility to manage its charges.

    So the teacher is not paid like Bill Gates or a professional athlete, their reward comes from knowing they did their job and they did it well and their students succeed (and the definition of success means something different to me than it does to most). There is no better reward for a teacher than seeing their students grasp the material and go on to better things. Money certainly does not come close nor do vacations and other items many people think are important.

    The teacher’s place is in the classroom, not on vacation or living the high life. The teacher may still teach when they get cancelled classes or other disruptions but what they teach may be detrimental not constructive to the student. Western teachers need to re-evaluate their priorities especially those in Korea, as the message they send is part of the reason why they have so many problems in that country.

  4. ddeubel says:


    I chewed and digested every word. Found myself nodding in agreement all the way through. Lovely! Lovely!

    Yet still, there is a little corner in my soul that says money does matter. Maybe it is me and I need to have the devil shook out of me. I can’t help it. I know that I’d love/enjoy teaching at “x” job for 2,000 dollars a month. However I do know that after a month or so, I’d be grumbling. I’d be dragging my feet. I’d be complaining and regretting my decision knowing I could get $5,000 dollars a month and do half the work.

    Am I bad for being like this? Am I bad for being much more motivated as a teacher by money?

    You’ve got me thinking…. I’ve always believed in teaching as a “calling” and espouse all the things you related. Read this blog and you’ll understand that. However, I’m conflicted….

  5. archaeologist says:

    of course money matters but not as motivation for we all need some return on our services. we have bills to pay, food to buy and we have desires to meet as well BUT that does not elevate money to a high priority or a motivator to teach for we can get money at any job.

    the example you give just demonstrates the heart attitude and sounds like you need to be bribed to work and teaching shouldn’t be that way. (i hold the same attitude for preaching, medicine as well). i think everyone does better if they are given more money but it should come as a reward not a demand.

    those questions you need to answer for yourself. my perspective comes from my belief in Jesus and I would search your desires to get some of your answers. if you want movies, hdtvs, very nice cars, a night life, etc., then i would review how much those items affect your desire for a higher salary and ruin your desire to teach.

    a lot of times it is not the salary that is the problem but those ‘extras’ the world offers and everyone ‘must have’ that gets them into trouble.

  6. amazed says:


    I agree that money doesn’t really work as the primary motivator. Being focused on students allows us to understand our students and teach with greater influence.

    I also agree with ddeubel’s original post that a good paycheck can be quite important. I seriously question the quality of a life only dedicated to teaching. We are whole, complete, round characters. We have families, wives, and friends that exist outside of school. How much money we earn has a direct influence on our ability to provide for family and spend quality time with our friends and family. Women are attracted to money because it provides security. I think it’s too simple to refer to this as materialism. Potential wives want to know if we earn enough money to take care of them and the children. Do we earn enough money to create savings? What about retirement? What about times of crisis? Money is often what is needed to help family members in need.

    I love my students and love my work. That is not in question.

    If lack of financial resources makes my wife feel insecure … I will look for a teaching job that pays more money.

    Teaching is an aspect of life. It is not the purpose of my life.

    When a teacher is well paid, they can provide for family, save for retirement and for times of emergency. A good paycheck can be motivating because it meets very important needs. By loving my students I help family and prepare to meet future needs. Yes, I work to love and teach my students. I also work to love and provide for my family and myself.

    Sadly, many EFL schools are not designed to support a teacher with commitments towards family or savings. We are forced to go elsewhere.

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