Remember Your “Why” to Teaching
4 Strategies to Motivate and Encourage Beginning Teachers

By Melanie Fields and Laura Isbell
Dr. Fields is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M-Commerce University in the Curriculum & Instruction department. She is the secondary/all-level field-based program coordinator for the department. Her research interests include teacher preparation and effects of early field experience on teacher preparation.

Dr Isbell is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M-Commerce University in the Curriculum & Instruction department. She is an advisor and Master’s program coordinator in the Curriculum & Instruction department. Her research interests include teacher preparation, teacher quality, academic and behavioral interventions, and educational policy.

Every year too many teachers close their doors and do not return to the classroom, and it is time to start asking why? Teacher turnover has been as high as 40–50% in the past decade. Ingersoll and Smith (2003) noted that beginning teachers often leave within their first 5 years due to unrealistic work conditions, low salary, better job opportunities, or dissatisfaction with having a lack of influence over schoolwide decisions. Recent reports from the National Education Association (Long, 2015) indicated about 15–17% are leaving within the first 5 years. Although statistics show the number of teachers leaving is decreasing, losing even one highly qualified teacher is too many. Teacher burnout is problematic for parents, students, and school districts. It is important to note that things can get tough, but you can do it!

If the first few years of teaching are proving to be difficult or discouraging, one strategy you can use to recall your original motivation and inspiration for entering the field of education is to create a virtual “why” movie. Here are four strategies to help you remember and recall your passion, drive, and motivation for teaching.

1. Create your Why movie!:
Create a 3–5-minute movie about why you chose to teach. You could share your “why” movie during a professional development session or with colleagues to encourage and support each other. Additionally, this movie could be used as a reminder about why you entered the teaching field as a professional career.

Useful apps on tablets are:
  • iMovie
  • TiltShift
  • VidLab

Useful websites for making movies are:
Why Movies
Check out these Why movies made by three preservice teachers.
2. Watch and reflect!
If you don’t have the time to create a why movie, another suggestion is to videotape yourself teaching one of your favorite lessons. This video gives you an opportunity to reflect on a great lesson you had in the classroom. Watching a good day could be all the encouragement you need to remember why you are in the classroom. Learn more from the webinar Promote Yourself! Steps to Making a Video That Shows You as an Effective Teacher.

3. Share your inspiration.
Think about who inspires you and why they inspire you. Try to emulate how they motivate you and keep you inspired. Remember, smiles are contagious and so are inspirational attitudes.

Be the person on your campus to start a blog or website as a place to share your why. Each week you could continue to share the excitement of your classroom, with your why and your wonders from each day. You could be the reason your colleague decides to stay, too. Just by sharing your story, you could be the encouragement necessary to prevent a valued friend in the classroom from leaving the teaching profession. Here are some free blogging resources:
4. Create your own reset button.
Start fresh every day. Let each day be a new day with new challenges, new goals, and a new outlook! Staying renewed and refreshed helps keep your classroom environment welcoming. Students feel safe and trust that each new day offers another chance to do their best, even if the day before was a little tough. It gives the teacher and the student the opportunity to remember the reasons why each day counts. Every day is important!

Do you ever think about why you decided to teach in the first place? Each day is a new day and remembering your first motivation to become a teacher fuels the drive and motivation to help our students succeed. Use that motivation and inspiration to drive instruction and allow the students in your classroom to thrive. On the days that seem tougher than most, perhaps one of these strategies will work for you to stop and remember WHY you made the right choice to become a classroom teacher.

Ingersoll, R. M., & Smith, T. M. (2003). The wrong solution to the teacher shortage. Educational Leadership, 60(8), 30–33.

Long, C. (2015, May 13). Teacher turnover is much lower than you probably think. NEA Today. Retrieved from