39 comments on “What gets you up in the morning – thinking about motivation

  1. Easy question:


    (a là Dan Pink)

    I think, reading your blog post and the trials and stages along your journey to be a tuba player spells that out doesn’t it… also your question of whether or not to continue ..i.e. the demotivation.

    I am demotivated, personally, when I am disrespected which actually makes me think about the fact that “Demotivation” might well be an exciting topic to explore, after all, even if we know what motivates our students, what demotivates them is not necessarily the opposite. All beings not being equal and all that.

    See, I don’t mind working in a team and don’t necessarily have to be the boss of something (shock! surprise!) and while I love to be automous it isn’t demotivating not to be…

    …don’t much like doing something for no particular reason but accept that sometimes in life we have no idea why there are things we must do and worst of all, live through…

    …and mastery, that funny, funny word, the most exciting thing about trying to be the master of something is the fact we probably never will be the “ultimate” master of it.

    So, hmm… my point was lack of motivation might be an interesting avenue to explore within the scope of language learning.

    • Hello Karenne,

      yes I agree that it is very much worth looking at how and why de-motivation comes to people even when they start out being fairly motivated.

      For the tuba experience however, I was interested in how strong my inner motivation was and as a result, I am interested in how we can create that ‘strength’ in ordinary lessons.


  2. Hi Jeremy,

    What a wonderful feeling it is to have a new challenge, something you want to achieve – and do it well! It sure sounds you were very motivated, and from reading you talk about it I think it might have been for a number of reasons. It could be because it was something completely new to you and also involving something you are very passionate about – music. going out of the ordinary, diving into the unknown… this can have quite a motivator effect on adventurous people (and you sound like one of those). The drive for mastery as Karenne mentioned.

    Being part of the group might have had something to do with it as well – after all a large number of musicians from the orchestra were taking part in it – and deep down we always want to be “in”, part of the conversations, the excitement, we don’t want to feel left out. Nobody can deny that it was a very noble cause too – yet another motivator, even more so because it’s someone you know and admire. The competition factor has a part as well. We all want to excel, and comparing ourselves to others is inevitable, at least for me it is.

    But the examination is the greatest reason for your motivation in my opinion. I’m not saying you wouldn’t have learned (or at least started to learn) how to play the tuba if you didn’t have the Grade 1 Boards in 8 weeks. But you certainly wouldn’t have been as driven and committed. You would have let other things take priority over practicing your tuba.

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the fact you were going to be evaluated was the main motivator – or that an exam is the greatest motivator any of us can have – for you. But it was a concrete reason.

    See, in the initial classes I always like to talk to students, get to know them and especially find out their reasons for studying English. The great majority of times the answer is automatic, numb: “It’s important for my future” they say. It frustrates me to be honest. Hearing students sometimes as young as 12 year old say that, without even thinking, just repeating what they’ve heard. I ask them “Why is it important?” “What are you doing in your future that you’ll need English for?” to be honest I don’t know most of them know what they want to do when they grow up – and they are too young for that anyway. For me, that’s not even the worse part of it. The worse part is think how can I expect these kids to have motivation to learn a language they will only need in the future. When is that future???

    I find it essential to have a concrete objective, a reason for doing things to have motivation for it. And not a “for-my-future-whenever-that-is” reason. With my students I try to help them find a more immediate (or closer in time) reason for learning English, something related to their interests. Sometimes it works. You had that concrete objective, shor-term. That gives an even extra boost!

    I do like Karenne’s angle on looking at demotivation as well… And rarely explored.

    As for your final question, for what motivates me, what gets me to study… I’ll have to reflect a little more on that. I’m not entirely sure of the answer. Thanks for sharing your experience and making us think. 😉


    • Hello Cecilia,

      yes, I agree entirely. It’s all about goals! When kids study music in the UK they go through the 8 grades 9as i said in the blog). The fact that an exam is coming makes them practise.

      When students are studying for TOEFL or IELTS or say the first Certificate exam, that is pretty powerful too.

      Somehow we have to persuade kids that there’s something good for them ‘on the other side’ – and the skill of good teachers I think is to identify that something?


  3. I find we are motivated when we have a purpose.
    Projects that are planned for a day when we have time are never done. On the other hand, we make an effort in a very busy schedule to make time for a project if we can use it, it will be noticed or have some other effect.
    The pupils need a target. What the target is and how they show they have reached the target – there’s volumes to say about that. But they, and we, need a puprose.

    Thanks for this thought provoking post!

    • Hi Naomi,

      yes, that’s it, I am sure. A target.

      I keep meaning to go back to the gym, but the target is too ill-defined, and so I haven’t been back.

      But if I was going to run the marathon I reckon I’d train all the time until it happened!


  4. thanks for the great post, in my experience many people lack the motivation to carry out whatever it is they’re trying to do. If I may, a very smart man shared with me a formula to manufacture motivation.

    It comes in two parts:

    Part one – when you create a goal make a promise to somebody that will be impacted by your failure. Don’t promise yourself, you let yourself down all the time.

    Part two – put yourself at risk. Create a goal that is measurable, and if you don’t achieve it you must do something that you do not want to do. IE: cut your neighbor’s lawn for a month, or donate $200 to the political party that you hate?

    Both of these parts seem extreme, yet if you’re still struggling with motivation it really is the perfect way to manufacture it. I use this formula all a time in my business training courses. I not only use it myself but I’ve trained thousands to use it as well.

    Thanks for letting me post,

    Paul Tobey

    • Hello Paul,

      thank you so much for that.

      Yes, that is extreme, but I recognise the motivational value of putting yourself at risk and making failure really uncomfortable. For me, the fear of making a fool of myself in front of my peers may have had that ‘risk’ fact built in…


  5. I have a pretty high motivation to engage in continuing professional development within the field of TESOL. Reading the ELT blogs is a part of this.

    But motivating myself can become more difficult when I don’t see concrete rewards for what I’ve done. I love teaching, but I admit that I do feel a bit down sometimes just before pay-day when I’m low on cash and feeling rather overworked and under-renumerated, despite not doing this for the money.

    And I would find it difficult to continue reading the ELT books in our library, reading blogs and discussion forums and going to teaching seminars etc if I wasn’t continually finding inspiration and practical teaching ideas therein.

    So I think we are motivated in our day-to-day situations by the anticipation of gaining small rewards, kind words from a student, a lesson which you know went well, a good mark, getting paid etc etc.

    • Hi Thomas,

      thanks so much for contributing.

      Rewards! Yes, I am sure you are right.But is the general reward of learning more and becoming a better teacher enough for most people? How can we persuade students that learning more its it own reward – especially when, as in my case, I am sometimes not convinced of it myself, sometimes?!!


  6. Hi Jeremy
    I find the title of this post rather ironic for me, as I got into ELT because I didn’t like getting up in the morning! So much EL teaching goes on in the afternoons and evenings, so I thought it was the perfect job for me. The irony here I guess is double in my case as I had just finished a degree in music when I made that choice.

    Nowadays I get up at about 7 in the morning and usually switch the computer off about midnight, so it’s interesting to wonder what happened over the last 20 years to make that transformation.

    For me I think it has a lot to do with wanting to do what I do better. The same thing that drove me as a musician also seems to drive me within ELT and teaching (though I think I dod better within teaching as I was a pretty mediocre musician). I think we work with a very imperfect art, so there is always room to improve, know a little more, something new to try and something more to learn. All of that helps to keep it interesting. Life is far too short to spend your days doing something dull, so at least in that regard we are very lucky.



    • Hi Nik,

      how interesting! I didn’t know that you had done a music degree. You say you were a mediocre musician. but I bet you weren’t/aren’t!

      When you did your degree did you do a first instrument study? And if so, why did you practise (did you practise?)

      A study showed that kids who practise most are the best instrumentalists (susrrise surprise). But why do some practise more than others? Love? Parental encouragement? Grade exams?

      I feel fairly motivated, like you, to keep ging in ELT, reading and trying things out. But then I couldn’t continue in the profession if I did not! So perhaps fear of failure is what keeps me going?

      Not sure.


  7. Hi Jeremy,
    Just waking up in the morning and watching outside my window as the day breaks in is inspirational for me, as I live in the Chilean countryside. However, motivation to start something new just comes after I read something, I watch a movie or I talk with somebody.
    Thanks for your story. You sound like a child in its first day at school –which means that your inner child is fully awake!!
    Ana Maria

    • Hello Ana Maria,

      wow, is the view from your window beautiful? Sunrise through the mist, that kind of thing? Mountains? I’m trying to imagine it!

      Yes, being alive can be pretty motivating!!

      I am sure you are right that a lot of motivation comes from conversations and films etc.

      As for the inner child…well I’m trying not to lose him and maybe I could even do better this time around!!


  8. Exams do get me particularly motivated. So do other things. But from the perspective of an English learner and teacher, it is the latter that makes me put myself in my students shoes quite often. I’ve noticed that motivation is trigged and boosted by a wide range of things: from an upcoming trip or business interview to the latest Justin Bieber’s tune. Motivation is also, one of the hardest words to define if you’re caught unaware. Can we define motivation in three minutes (the clock’s ticking).

    It’s not very likely that you will get a group of teens motivated the same way you might get an adults group by the same activity or topic. And more, we, as teachers, won’t bother to critically reflect on our teaching practice if we are not truly motivated.

    I’ve tried to get my students motivated and observed the wonders motivation can make in a learning environment. I’ve clearly noticed that the most motivated are not necessarily the best students in a classroom. Nor are the less motivated the weakest. There seems to be much more rocket science on it than one can possibly imagine.

    Above all, get yourself motivated as a human being. Have more to share with your students. Be honest and look at their eyes. Challenge yourself everyday and try to be a better practioner you were yesterday. In the end, despite the cliché it might sound: love it or leave it.

    • Hi Nelson,

      thanks for coming along.

      I agree 100% that de-motivated teachers will fins it difficult to motivate their teenagers. That’s why ‘burnout’ is such a terrifying phenomenon – a kind of vicious cycle of unhappiness for all concerned. And when that happens the only possible solutions is to break out, either metaphorically or literally. Get going. Get of the comfort zone. try something new. Raise the energy level.

      I’m not sure if ‘love’ it is the deal, but I certainly believe that remaining engaged with it – talking to colleagues about classes, reading, going to seminars etc. That IS the answer!


  9.   I’m with you a 100% Jeremy. “Love” probably is not the best thing for us to burn as fuel here. Engagement sure fits best. Just like you’ve mentioned, I also believe in the power of sharing – and I am really lucky as sharing is concerned at the school I work- knowledge recycling and of course what our PLN’s can do for us. Unless we teachers are able to truly get ourselves into teaching ain’t no way the wheel can be fed. Unhappiness is catching, but so  are the energy and excitement we can turn into learning.

    Kind Regards

    Nelson Toledo

    • Thanks for this Nelson!

      I don’t think I could ever stay motivated in what i do – methodology etc – if it wasn’t for the sharing with colleagues!


  10. WOW. I’ve never seen a tuba solo before. That was “ear-opening” 🙂

    Thanks for the post, Jeremy. The “why” or “motivation” question has burned inside of me from a very early age. I can remember having a mild angst at 15 when I wondered if we are but a result of our parents’ genes, and then the way they raised us… I wondered when we really harnessed our own “why” or were we inherently tied to certain paths because of the pile of nature and nurture experiences that had brought us to the present.

    What gets me up in the morning is to buy a baguette for Claire, my french partner. Even days when I feel like sleeping in, if she has early classes, I get up and throw on the sandals and pop out into the Parisian streets, eye goo still intact. 🙂 Then, I’m rolling head first into another day, and I’m glad I got up for someone else, for the LOML. Most mornings this, in itself, is motivating. Then, other times, I get up earlier because the work I do is fascinating, and because often I also have to make calls to China before their work days is out.

    Lastly, I recently revisited this Ted video thanks to a blog post by Karenne at Kalinago English.

    Tony Robbins is a great speaker, and he’s certainly one of the most famous motivational speakers in the world, and he says the “WHY”, the “what” that’s driving you is always based within emotions.

    Thanks for asking an important and interesting question, and for sharing what must have been a great experience for you. Cheers, Brad

    • Hi Brad,

      I am sorry that it’s taken me time to get back to you on this great set of comments.

      Yes! Emotions. Like why you go out and get out on the Paris streets!!

      Tony Robbins is great, thanks.

      But what would YOU say to my Serbian commentator below?!


  11. Mr. Harmer, I am a student currently attending Faculty of English language and literature (3rd year as it is) and one of our obligatory subjects is, of course, Methodics. We use ( actually, our lecturer has chosen) your book “The practice of english language teaching; 3rd edition” as a styding material. Now, I have to say that, in my opinion, your book is written fairly good as far as native english speaking countries are concerned. Yes, I think your methods of teaching language (be it English or any other language)may be working in countries that don’t have high rate of corruption, unemployment, massive feeling of disillusionment, and so forth. But here, in Serbia(University of Kragujevac more precisely), you simply cannot talk about motivation, feedback, evaluation and such. Why? Because, “students being happy, cheerful” is a phrase that rises somewhat angry feelings towards almost anything. Kids and young students don’t want to learn(don’t have the desire), teachers are unwilling to get in discussion with the rest of the class and everything is falling apart. Why? Because the only have to take a look at theri parents’ lives and do the math. No job will be waiting for them when they finish their schools, attending universities is especially expensive commodity here, even the teachers are uninterested in anything more than getting home and having a couple of drinks and getting their somewhat low paychecks at the end of the month. So, from that standpoint I’d say that the stuff you wrote in your book is either crap or it would be more appropriate for some SF novel/movie since pretty much evertything in there doesn’t correspond with the real life(situations). And you know what’s even crazier? We have to learn that stuff is if it were truth and nothing but the truth and it’s the hardest part of it. My mind simply cannot accept that nonsense (when I compare your theory against the real-world surrounding) as some divine teaching bible.
    Ps. Go over some of Nietzsche’s work again please…especially “Twilight of the idols” or even some of Faucault’s. Maybe then you will get out of that europocentristic point of view and realize that what works for one society and culture actually is bad and hindering for the other.

    • Mr Teofilovic,

      One of the many important attributes a teacher needs to develop is to do with respect: firstly, respect for others, especially respect for students, teachers and other professionals, and secondly, behaving in a way which commands respect for yourself.

      If you accuse others, such as Jeremy, who have written respectfully for his readers wherever they might come from, about best practice in ELT, of writing ‘crap’ and ‘science fiction’, then you have failed to achieve neither the first nor the second.

      Writing an authorative work about best practice in a profession which is based on sensitivity, professionalism and vocation, lays you open to criticism, however carefully you present your ideas. I don’t mean that Jeremy demands respect because he has written a book for ELT teachers. I simply mean that I don’t agree that just because someone has written a book or a blog that they should be considered fair game for criticism which uses volatile words, such as ‘crap’.

      As I know Jeremy’s work pretty well (all editions), I don’t agree with your criticism. It’s not simply your opinion which is questionable, but your lack of respect for a professional. I wonder how your future students will view your efforts to achieve the standards of professionalism which they have a right to expect from you.

      Simon Greenall

      • Hello Simon,

        thank you so much for commenting here.

        I was thinking, when I replied to Cecilia below) that volatile words do at least get you noticed! And that righteous anger at a situation such as poverty, corruption and unemployment seems to me to be entirely justifiable sometimes.

        But I guess the issue, then, is how to channel that anger into something that is helpful for someone – students, in our case. It takes energy to get mad and write ‘crap’ and Science fiction and to generally wave your fists in the air. And that energy could be used so much more productively….!

        We all disagree with other lots in this profession (thank Heavens). It keeps the discourse flowing. The only problem – when it gets too volatile – is that the discourse sometimes gets closed down.


    • Mr Teofilovic,
      Your post is wrong for so many reasons that I would need thousands of words to elaborate on each and every one of them.
      You see, I teach in the very same country and I have to agree with you that the situation is not promising. Unfortunately, that’s all we can agree on.
      Have you ever thought that you should help your students build a brighter future for them? Do you think what they need is yet another gloomy and desperate nihilist in their lives? Are you going to teach them it’s perfectly normal to describe someone’s effort of writing a book “crap or…SF”?
      If what you’ve written truly shows how you feel about teaching here, I can only suggest you consider a career outside the classroom, for you don’t want to spend your whole life doing a fruitless and pointless job. There are many people I know who would be more than happy to do it for you.

      • Thank you so much for your comments.

        You say much better than me what I feel about all this.

        There is indeed no point in what we do if we can only see anger and despair. Luckily, however, in most children’s lives there is at least one teacher who shows a ray of light amidst the darkness!

        I am going to Serbia next month. I can’t wait!


    • Mr. Teofilivic,

      After I read your comment I felt compelled to reply to them because I am from (and work and live in) a country that fits much of the description you’ve given: an absurd amount of corruption, unemployment, poverty. The people who are born in poorer areas, from more humble families, that had to attend public schools face numerous obstacles to get an education, sometimes hours on foot to reach school, and most times these schools don’t have any resources, some don’t even have chairs or blackboards. I believe this qualifies me to give my exempt opinion on what you said here.

      In Brazil we use “The Practice of ELT” when we’re studying to become teachers – as well as many other books from native speakers, Europeans or otherwise. And yes, these authors may be from very different realities, but I don’t think this makes their books inappropriate or unfit. What I’ve learned from these books has helped me become a better teacher in my practice, even in such different setting. I think part of being a teacher is adapting what you read and learn in books (whoever has written them) to the reality you face in your classroom. I’ve have used what I studied and learned with “The Practive in ELT” in my classes and it has worked. It’s certainly not “science fiction” as you said. I found ways to motivate my students, even if the future “pre-determined” for them seemed grim, and some of them have broken that barrier, and gotten scholarships to better schools (with the help of English too) or better jobs than their parents’. And even those who didn’t, I’d like to think I’ve helped them learn an extra skill that might help them in the future.

      More than that I hope I have (in the 17 years I’ve been teaching) helped these students develop their sense of respect, tolerance; that I have touched their lives in some way. Does what I’m saying sound naive and romantic to you? Probably. Your reality is different from mine. But if your students have “angry feelings towards anything” they may be doing that because they’re reflecting your angry feelings. Students look up to us, we are references in many ways. And that’s your choice. I choose to be a positive reference, a motivating one. If you think teaching your students English will make no difference in their lives, why have you chosen to be an English teacher? You might want to reconsider your career choice. Working at something that brings up so much anger and resentment will not bring you anything BUT anger and resentment.

      On a final note, I echo what Simon said about your lack of respect and ethics when criticizing the book. You’re entitled to your opinion and to voicing it, but there are “ways” and “ways” of doing something, and I think you have chosen the worst one. To disagree should never mean to disrespect. As an educator you should know that. I wish you peace.

      Cecilia Lemos

      • Thank you for commenting Cecilia.

        I guess that one definition of teacher burnout is when we feel that no longer have anything to offer to the kids/students we are working with. A horrible state to be in.

        And sad. Because teachers DO have something to offer. They may be, after, some of the ONLY people who actually consider the lives of the kids in front of them in the kind of situation that was described here. So let’s raise a glass of something to a profession whose sole aim is to make people’s lives better, in whatever small or big way that might be, and however awful the circumstances.

        I have recently been told of a 15-year-old who wrote to her teacher (someone who suffers from a difficult and debilitating physical condition) to tell him that his positivism in the face of an awkward illness had inspired her and made her feel better about life and about herself. I think in the end, that’s the whole answer to the kind of nihilistic comments above.

        As for ‘way’s and ‘ways’ of doing things: I don’t think hurling thunderbolts of the ‘crap’ variety is terribly effective. Though, of course, it does get you noticed!


    • I normally go to the roots of words to better understand, so here we go:

      CRAP… as defined on http://www.etymonline.com/

      “defecate” 1846 (v.), 1898 (n.), from one of a cluster of words generally applied to things cast off or discarded (e.g. “weeds growing among corn” (early 15c.), “residue from renderings” (late 15c.), underworld slang for “money” (18c.), and in Shropshire, “dregs of beer or ale”), all probably from M.E. crappe “grain that was trodden underfoot in a barn, chaff” (mid-15c.), from M.Fr. crape “siftings,” from O.Fr. crappe, from M.L. crappa, crapinum “chaff.” Sense of “rubbish, nonsense” also first recorded 1898.

      Is that really what you meant, Mr Teofilovic?

      I’ve just bought Jeremy’s book today to see for myself. 🙂

      I’ve always tried to understand those around me, to put myself in their perspective. I can only momentarily imagine myself in your shoes, but I know that it must not be easy to live in a challenging situation. I’ve seen them before as I’ve lived and taught in Africa, India, Mexico and China.

      And yet, each and every one of my students there had a choice: a choice to learn or not to learn. A choice to strive, or hope for something more, because no matter what we do, life will always change around us. As you wrote your comments earthquakes were terrorizing Japan, and meanwhile, elsewhere, hundreds of people in the world were dying from a disease, a car crash, war or thousands of other reasons. Hundreds were being born too. Life is change.

      You’ve thrown a stone here, and I wonder if it’s hit home. I think that that stone may have stung Mr. Harmer for a moment, but I’m sure he also realizes that your situation must be tough, and he wishes you only the best, as do the other teachers that responded here. However, I’m fairly positive that they all hope you will make a difference choice next time around.

      Will you continue to throw stones, or will you use those stones to build something for your community, as tough as it may be these days?

      I offer you all the respect I can, and hope that you choose a present that brings peace to you, as well as to your community.

      Cheers, Brad

      • Brad,

        I just wanted to say that yes, stones have metaphorical power. They can create horrific ripples, or beautiful life-affirming ones (is that too soupy?)

        Sometimes teachers just can’t cope with the reality they have to teach in – and I have no idea how you would make Japanese kids, especially in the north east, feel secure right now. But in the end we have to cope somehow, because, however hard, if you can just light a flame in one child’s heart…

        Oh dear, it is easy to go right over the metaphorical top!

        Some teaching situations are really tough. That doesn’t mean they are not worth doing!


  12. Hello Tony? Sorry I am unclear about your name.

    You raise some profound questions. Here are some answers:

    firstly (this is the boring answer), I wish you were not reading the 3rd edition of The Practice of English language Teaching. The 4th edition (2007) is a far more accurate view of where I am at the moment.

    Secondly, however, issues of self-esteem, engagement, achievement etc are not either Eurocentric, or Science Fiction. They are the only way to deal with the children in front of us. For the alternative – and what you seem to be suggesting – seem to me to be a counsel of despair. If I follow your argument correctly it is that because things aren’t great in Serbia (in terms of employment, the future etc), you might as well give up and despair. Don’t try to make children confident or empowered. Don’t offer them hope. Bring despair into the classroom and let it fester there.

    Because if the situation is that bad and the children have no hope, why bother to teach anything? Why bother to make any effort of any kind with the kids? Just leave them to rot! That seems to me to be your view of affairs.

    I beg to differ. Not all great thinkers, lovers, creatives, parents, scientists, moralists came out of comfortable ‘European’ (whatever that means) situations. No. People can rise above and beyond their immediate surroundings – for if they can not, then there is no point in anything.

    So I reject your views. The stuff I wrote in my book is not crap. It certainly is NOT the Bible – but then I never said it was. What it is, is an attempt to reflect good practice in situations around the world where the teachers I most admire dedicate their time and love to try and take their students way beyond what their circumstances might suggest.

    Not science fiction.

    Professionalism. Vocation.


  13. For me what gets me upin the morning is curiosity. Since I was a kid I have always wanted to know why? Or what? Or where? Or how? This has led me on some interesting journeys, however the one I’m on at the moment is algebra, trigonomatry & calculus.) Why? I love astronomy and I have read everything I can but the thing secretly I would love the most is to understand those formulas, the laws of quantum physics and a different way to view the universe.) Will I ever get to grade 1, I don’t know, but I am definately blowing my little heart out on my mathematical, astronomy Tuba.)

  14. Hi Sharon,

    I LOVE the idea of astro-mathematical grade 1 tuba!!

    And yes, that inner curiosity is such a powerful force. Ted Robbins (see the comment above about his TED talk) would say it is something to do with love! I guess there’s something in that. Love of being alive, loved (well a thirst) for knowing more, understanding more.

    Which is what, somehow, we have to try and instill in our students, I guess.


  15. I think Srdjan raises an interesting point by saying:

    “We have to learn that stuff is if it were truth and nothing but the truth and it’s the hardest part of it. My mind simply cannot accept that nonsense (when I compare your theory against the real-world surrounding) as some divine teaching bible.”

    As you say, Jeremy, you never intended the book to be read as a ‘bible’ and I never thought you would. Perhaps the way in which it is being taught by Srdjan’s lecturer is the real problem? Surely the book exists for reference, to read, use, reflect on and think critically about, not to digest as an ultimate truth.

    As Srdjan says, context is very important and surely an important thing for any student teacher is to recognise that they need to evaluate their own context and find their own best practice. Surely Jeremy’s book offers up a variety of possibilities and ideas, not a big answer, perhaps this point could be raised with your lecturer, Srdjan?

  16. Hi Richard,

    yes, that’s about it. I think what methodology writers TRY and do is to describe other people’s ‘good practice’ – at least that’s what i do – and offer it up/share it for others who are interested.

    But context IS all, something I tried to say in both the last and the current editions. Pablo Toledo had a good ‘Howl’ years ago about how ‘comfy activities for comfy schools’ wouldn’t work for his situation over there in Argentina, and he had a point. I think it is the job of any reader/receiver of methodology to engage with it, question it, dissect it etc, because something might come of that. It could, of course, be a rejection of what you read (or hear), or it might be an adjustment, a change, a different version. Well then at least that methodology will have provoked someone into action.


  17. I laughed aloud at the memory your post triggered. My brother had to take the gruelling US music teacher certification exams, for which he had to perform scales and a real piece on 12 different instruments in 5 categories (bowed string, plucked string, keyboard, woodwind, & brass). The last of these – like you, perhaps – was nearly his downfall: he had to play major and minor scales and a simple etude on the trombone. Trombone! It was about as familiar to him as Siberian cuisine. Apparently he fumbled through it and faced the silence of the jury, who after an uncomfortable silence marked his forms ‘pass’. “But don’t EVER try to play that instrument again!” was the jury comment.
    I think you’re right about the motivating power of self-esteem; however, that may apply to people who have already reached a certain level. The opposite may be true with students who are struggling and/or who are insecure: they may already have convinced themselves that there’s little use in trying. They are the ones who provide us with the biggest challenges, aren’t they?

  18. Hi Jenny,

    thanks so much for coming along and leaving that fabulous story/comment! I am sorry I didn’t reply to you earlier.

    I think maybe I should never try my ‘new’ instrument again, though now that it is not here I miss it. I wonder if I’ll ever play tuba again…

    But yes, you are absolutely right. It’s all about trying to persuade children who have somehow become convinced (by the adults around them) that they are no good, that they DO have potential. That’s the challenge – and the joy when it goes right!


  19. Dear Jeremy,

    I’m wondering if you could help me out with an article that I am preparing on teacher training. As you are very influential in the world of ELT and teacher training in particular I would be very interested in your response to the following:

    “Do learners of English learn more effectively with CELTA- qualified teachers? What studies have been done to show that they do (or don’t)?”

    The article is a follow up to an editorial I wrote for ELTNEWS.com recently, which got a fair bit of reaction:

    Teachers Should Know How to Teach

    Hope you can help!



  20. Wow!!! Lot´s of comments… I couldn´t read them all… what an excellent question!!! Some days I am so angry about how certain things work in Uruguayan public schools , but I still wake up and I arrive at school with a smile. You’ve made me think….
    By the way, I studied viola when I was a teenager and I quit to go to law school and then I quit to get into the education field. “Mi mami” was a proffessional cello player in Montevideo and passed away on October last year after three year of fighting against cancer. I am in a different school this year, Music teachers were preparing a short play to show children how was to be in a high class house in Montevideo in the first decades of the 19 century, and the type of music they listened to and how dances were and something in me made me tell them “you know, I play the viola”. After ten years not playing the instrument I started to prepare my own score to be part of the “minué montonero”. It´s was a great experience!!!

    If you can see the pic, the costumes were 1850 and the play was about “Las invasiones Inglesas” in 1807 .. the costumes should have been different but it was we could find. Anyway, children got the idea that ladies used to play instruments, dance, do embroidery, got married and … that was all.

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