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How to Motivate a Negative Teacher

by Professor Joe Martin

A New Teacher writes:

I wanted to know, how do you motivate someone (another teacher) who you know has it in them (to be a good teacher) but just needs somebody to help them get it out?

Prof. Joe's response:

This is a million dollar question that I'm constantly asked, not only as an educator, but also as a professional speaker. It’s unbelievable how many administrators and teachers, like yourself, are looking for ways to "motivate" either their staff or their students.

To answer your question in a nutshell, you can't do it. Of course, that doesn't mean I’m ripping people off when I speak professionally…but allow me to explain.




People label me as a motivational speaker or motivational teacher. However, I beg to differ. I’m not a motivational speaker/teacher, but rather I’m a teacher who is motivated. If someone is motivated after one of my session, I say praise God, I must be contagious – but really, I can do for you that which you are willing to do for yourself. Yes, I can start the fire, but you have to get a light yourself.

See, there's only one type of motivation...and that's self motivation. Of course, I can get you to do something. But if the motivation doesn't come from the inside, how long do you think you'll keep doing it? That's right, not long. I have a saying, "you can't push a rope." Think about that for a second. Someone must be willing to be motivated to find motivation.

The only thing you can do (and what I try to do for others), is to find out what motivates them (by asking A LOT of questions), and then I use it against them to give them leverage. It's that simple.

For example, if you want to get me (motivate me) to do anything, just show me how it relates to and can benefit students. One, you'll gain my attention, and two, you want have to ask me to do it twice. I know that sounds easy, because you would say, "Joe, but you're already a motivated person." Well, tell my wife that when she tries to get me to cut the grass every week. Motivation is like taking a shower; although it feels good and is refreshing, you’re going to need to take another one tomorrow, and the next day, and every day after that.

I think you get my point. In summary, I would suggest the following when it comes to helping your colleague become “self motivated”:

1. Find out what that person wants, needs, or cares about deeply.
2. Show that person as many ways as you can on how they can get it.
3. Introduce them to people who already have it.
4. Let them read about people who already have it.
5. Back off and see what happens.

Is this guaranteed to work? Of course not. But you can't get IT out of them if they don't know they have IT in them, and they're not willing to look for IT (i.e., motivation). Remember, you can't push a rope.


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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