Lessons From Teaching: #2 Know Your Motivation

I learnt about the impact motivation has on myself and the organisation from a project STC had won. As MCAST had been recently established, their IT lab space was less than their demand. The solution for this was that they outsourced IT lab space and STC won one agency awarded such a contract. The lucrative contract ended up challenging the capacity and motivation of the people at STC.

Attitude Impacts Tuition, Tutors & Students

I was given one of the first cohorts of students where my role was to teach them IT skills. MCAST students came from a completely different background than the usual students at STC. Although the background of a person is irrelevant to me it brought a completely different dynamic that I needed to adjust to.

The government was paying for these students’ tuition and this resulted that many took their education for granted. Their attitudes contrasted those who paid the expensive courses themselves or through their families. More than that most of these new students were teenagers who were too young to be motivated with anything.

Dynamics Change With Shifting Attitudes & Backgrounds

Out of the 20 students present only 2 were excited to learn IT. Another 5 decided to comply with the requirements. The rest either didn’t care or they just wanted to pass. As I was paid to provide tuition to my best abilities, irrespective of background, I set out to do my best.

The challenge was that with such a distribution of motivation and skill, it is difficult to keep all students engaged. Here I learnt to segment the class by skill and willingness and to meet them as they need. A person who has great skill will require a different approach to someone who had no skill.

Be Clear About The Values You Hold

As my attention is limited, it came naturally to focus according to people’s will. I always respected people’s choices and their willingness to learn. I treat students as adults. My philosophy was and has been 1) if you want to be here: good; 2) if you want to learn: great 3) if you want to engage, marvellous. I never forced anyone to do anything. I always let them do what they wanted if they didn’t interrupt.

My approach to passing the class was somewhat different. I made it clear to them that if they wanted to pass, they needed to do what was required. This resulted in lessons that involved 20 minutes doing exercises to pass the course and 40 minutes doing something else.

Good Relationships and Clear Boundaries Build Respect

This approach and my attitude towards the students allowed me to build good relationships with students. Even the cheeky ones seemed to appreciate this style. I would keep out of their way if they stay out of the way of interrupting the class.

There are others who were too keen on building relations in class. I tend to see these people as fire trying to find a combustible source to ignite a flame. What happens outside of class was none of my business. Yet I am responsible for what happened in the class. By establishing and keeping clear rules and boundaries with respect, it allowed me to keep things smooth.

Teaching Can Be An Expression Of Love

Through these mechanisms, I managed to find a way to adjust and manage the new dynamic. However, this came at the cost of my motivation which fell like a brick. Teaching, for me, is the meeting of people from different backgrounds discussing a topic. Without engagement in the topic, teaching was demotivating for me.

Without the heart, a service becomes transactional and it drains the life out of me. Apart from improving my reputation as a teacher, having my heart in the work transforms the work into joy. I also found that enthusiasm smoothens relationships, builds credibility and makes it easy to engage students. It is then that teaching becomes an expression of love.

In #3: Motivation Impacts Your Brand I continue talking about the impact this had on the organisation and the lessons I learnt from it.

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