Thursday, August 23, 2012

Motivational Spurs in the Classroom

English: Teachers from the Exploratorium's Tea...
Teachers from the Exploratorium's Teacher Institute examine the "String Thing" they built. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Richard D Boyce

I began collecting what might be called 'Motivational Spurs' about ten years before I retired.

I started to use them in my classes to encourage my students to aim higher; not to accept second best.

I did this by writing a new 'Spur' on the far side of the board away from where I was working and prominent enough to be seen by the whole class.

Often, I would use a different colour to draw attention to it.

I chose 'Spurs' that I thought were relevant at the time, particularly to their studies. Here are some examples:

• Thinking is the hardest work of all. That's why so few of us do it.
• Recognise the opportunity, grab it and do something with it.
• Successful people do things that failures don't want to do.

What often happened during the lesson was some event or situation would allow me to weave the 'Spur' into my teaching. Here is one such example I used leading into examination time.

The 4Ds of Success are:
• Desire
• Dedication
• Determination and
• Damn Hard Work

Many of my students wrote out these 'Motivational Spurs ' in their diaries. Years later, they would meet me and tell me they still had them and had used them along the way to inspire themselves. I must add that the 'Spurs' served to inspire me, as well, to aim high in all I did.

In the last years of my career, I would present each member of my graduating classes with a copy of more 'Spurs' to motivate them for the future. I called it: "Go for Gold - Thoughts to Remember 'Maths' by.''

- Perseverance: The difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of will.
- Persistence prevails when all else fails.
- Develop the TNT habit - Do it today not tomorrow.
- Do it now. You become successful the moment you start moving towards a worthwhile goal.
- Enthusiasm: The sky's the limit when your heart is in it.
- We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
- Courage: In the end, the only people who fail are those who do not try.
- The winner says, "It may be difficult but it is possible." The loser says, "It may be possible but it is too difficult."
- The difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is that little extra.
- Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
- The harder you work the luckier you get.
- In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.
- There is an island of opportunity in the middle of every difficulty.
- Mental Toughness: The skill to do what you have to do when you have to do it.

Teachers, too, need motivational spurs to help them through the stressful times in their career and to help them realise that they do make a difference. Here are some that have made an impact on me, personally.

• As a teacher, I touch eternity. We can never know where our influence will stop.
• I touch eternity - I teach. I touch the future - I teach.
• The greatest gift we can do for others is not to share our gifts with them but to help them discover their own gifts (that's what a teacher does).

Over the years I collected hundreds of these 'Spurs'. You can, too. The authors are mostly unknown to me. However, I'm sure they would love to see them passed on to our children to encourage them towards a better life. Create your own list and use it to inspire your students. May I leave you with one that 'tickles my fancy'? A tramp makes this remark to a friend as a new Mercedes moves past him. "There but for me go I!"

Our author, Rick Boyce, is one of three retired teachers with over a combined 140 years of experience in the classroom, who have created a website designed to help young teachers begin their career on a positive note.

Their eBooks are designed to give practical solutions to classroom challenges as well as other ideas to strengthen young teachers' skills quickly. Books include ideas on discipline, assessment, pedagogue, classroom management, starting at a new school and relief teaching. These eBooks can be found on

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