Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Motivational phrases that pay

Over the years, I've picked up little motivational clichés that may sound stupid, but I swear they work just about every time. They work because they mess with students' minds. And there's nothing I enjoy more than messing with young minds.

Today, at no cost to you, I present my first-ever list of Top 10 Phrases That Pay! (Use at your own risk. Not responsible for lost or decreased respect from your students. Side effects may include laughter behind your back, laughter in your face, rolled eyes, yawning, and threats of physical violence. If you experience any of these symptoms, welcome to the teaching profession, sucker.)

1. When a student says, "I don't know the answer."
I say, "I understand. You don't know the answer. But if you did know the answer, what would you say?"

2. When a student says, "I don't know how to do it."
I say, "You're not allowed to say that in my classroom. But you can say, 'I don't know how to do it ... yet.'"

3. When a student says, "Wish me luck."
I say, "I don't believe in luck. I believe in working hard and succeeding."

4. When a student asks, "What grade did you give me?"
I say, "I have no idea. What grade did you earn?"

5. When a student says, "This is boring."
I say, "This is practice. Practice sometimes feels repetitive. But think of this as practicing making free throws. The test is you standing at the free-throw line during the big game." (This, obviously, changes with the sports seasons or the student's preference. I might say, "But think of this as practicing your guitar in your bedroom. The test is you performing on stage at Lollapalooza.")

6. When a student says, "School is for fools."
I say, "Oh yeah? Well, work's for jerks."

7. When a student says, "I'd rather go to work than do homework."
I say, "Why do you want to work so bad? You'll be doing that for the rest of your life."

8. When a student says, "Sorry I'm late again."
I say, "No big deal. Just do me a favor: Go home and ask your mom what would happen if she went in to work five minutes late every day."

9. When my softball players say, "We're going to lose tomorrow."
I say, "If we win tomorrow's game, you can shave my head at Thursday's pep rally. On stage."

Well, some of these are more effective than others. But it's after 11, and I wanted to post something today.

Oh yeah, I realize that there are only nine, and I promised you 10 Phrases That Pay. Number 10 can be found in the comments.


appopt said...

I really don't have another one. I'm hoping someone else will supply that ...

Anonymous said...

Here is something a bit motivational(this is kind of related to #9)...A huskie maybe higher on the food chain, but they are only comfortable in packs...hehehehe

mr. christian said...

I used #1 the other day and got some traction with it. At least I got the student to think. Thanks for the tip. I do use 4 and I'm looking foreword to trying out #5.

appopt said...

I wonder if anonymous can possibly be talking about the upcoming NIU vs. UW football game? Yes, there is a pack of Illinois huskies traveling up to the tundra to witness the slaughter.

Anonymous said...

Well, I hope your not in the student or grad section. Maybe the alumnae section will be more forgiving.

The Mom said...

How about when they ask if they can "see" your scissors, stapler, tape, glue, etc. I always hold it up and comment, "Can you see it ok? Oh, you meant you wanted to use it? Oh, that's different.... NO!"

Anonymous said...

This really isn't a motivational phrase, but I seem to use it in my class a LOT (maybe it's cause my students are bored or just have ants in their pants); When a kid is tapping, hitting, pushing buttons on their watch or calculator, has glue or white out constantly I like to say, "Put your toys away!" And when they respond, and they always do, "It's not a toy." I retort, "If you are playing with it, then it's a TOY! Put it away and pay attention."

inappropriate said...

I had a colleague who would tell boys that were tapping on the desk or making some such noise to "take your hand out of your pants and stop playing with yourself."

Matt said...

Hi My name is Matti , I'm mexican, I live in Tampico, Tamaulipas, México recently I started to teach english in a elementary school, so I need to know more motivational phrases like " go on working", excellent,great effort, good work, keep it up, etc., for the notes in the cards of the children, could you help me? this is my e-mail thank you very much.

DS said...

A phrase I find fun and like to use with my direct reports if they say "Don't you trust me?" or "Don't you trust my work?" I always say "Double checking is the best form of trust". It always seems to bring more attention to detail in a humorous and less criticizing way. Also, I like to use strict or unfair criticisms that I have received throughout life and jokingly use them to remind my employees to do a good job. My first project at this job was to figure out why the inventoried product in our ERP system changes and creates data disconnect without any data movement transactions. As I was trying to hurry and explain what we need to do to prevent this result I accidentally told my boss, the CEO of the company that it happens but we need to do the following changes. He said "things don't just happened around here". I felt misunderstood at the time but with time I started using the phrase as a joke with all my employees. Now everyone seems to be using it around to laugh about strange occurances but also to remind each other that we need an explantaion for everything thus anticipating solutions ahead of time.