How to Motivate and Inspire Students

We’d all like to think that our elective class was the first choice of every student in our room. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Some schools have a tech wheel, so you always have students who don’t want to be there at all. Other schools are supposed to be operating under a program where students get to choose their electives but don’t necessarily get their first choice. Either way, you will always have a student or two who don’t really want to be in your class. Even if they want to be there, you have to fight distractions seeping in from their lives outside your walls and the electronics that are burning holes in their pockets. So, what can you do to motivate these students?

Start the year out with the attitude that this class is more of a Production Company than a classroom and students are really Crew or Interns who get paid with grades. Tell them that they can look forward to learning about a fun industry, while operating computer software, video equipment and utilizing their creativity. Point out that their work may be seen by the school, students, administration, family or the internet and it should be something they will be proud of. In the news crew/announcement class, their work may be seen daily and they must remember they are role models for the school. Emphasis, how it is an honor and a privilege to be able to video tape around school or at school events but that privilege can also be lost so, don’t blow it!

Take time to show student work from the past, other schools or even contest winners. Talk to the students positively about their potential and your belief in their hidden talents. Allow them TIME to be creative. Remember, learning new software for the first time can be over-whelming and being creative takes time. Continue to build them up with compliments throughout the year, even while trying to get them to improve their performance. Students really want to be noticed and recognized for their hard work. Try this and you’ll see more students looking for your approval. There are many ways to motivate students, you just have to keep thinking and trying new things. In fact, ask your fellow teachers for ideas.  I learn something new from my colleagues all the time.

Sam Morris at Timbercreek  High School uses phrases with his students such as “The show comes first”, “The 6 O’Clock news starts at 6” and “You’re only as good as your last show”. He posts these around the class, and repeats them with his students regularly. The students pick this up and soon quote them to each other while challenging their peers to live up to Mr. Morris’s standards. Morris says, “A little class competition is also fun and motivational.”

Derrick Charleston at Edgewater High School likes to focus on the students who are clearly interested in the class with the hopes of demonstrating to the other, not-so-interested students, how much fun being creative can be. Charleston also throws in an ‘editor’s choice’ project to expand student creativity. He feels this allows students to produce a quality video on a topic they are passionate about.

And Vickie Hladik at Ocoee High School says, “We always assume they understand or already know some terms we use every day, don’t assume.”  She believes that building a strong vocabulary of industry terms gives the students more confidence as they produce projects through the year and avoids frustration caused by a lack of understanding.

Trying to motivate students all year long can be frustrating for any subject area. Now add in expensive equipment or technical issues and it is no surprise the teacher ages as quickly as any US President while in office. Gray hair, wrinkles, weight gain, weight loss; you name it, stress stomps on our positive spirits and turns us into monsters. How can we control the stress and still keep our jobs?  Morris and Hladik suggest having a hobby or activity that is not video related. Hladik likes to write, while Morris enjoys Karate and punching or kicking his stress away. Charleston says, “Get some physical activity – stay active.” This is all good advice for any profession.

Finally, I’d like to remind you to focus on ONE DAY AT A TIME. Take it step by step, don’t try to do more than you can handle. We have the luxury of pacing our course the way we like, unlike a math class. If something isn’t working, change the due date. You have that power! You set the deadlines and you can change them. This is an elective and it is meant to be enjoyable for you and the students. If you aren’t having fun, your students won’t have fun either. So, make it fun for you and your students!!


Misty_CUMisty Gentle started with long format television programs for Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida. She worked her way up from a Production Assistant to Producer. Along the way, she worked in a variety of positions from pre-production through post. After that, she worked on shows for the Fox Health Network, Animal Planet, ABC, Disney, The Learning Channel, Discovery Channel and More. Misty has been a writer / director / producer for on-air promotions and corporate productions as well as 2nd assistant stage manager, Script Supervisor, Segment Producer, Associate Producer, and Post Production Producer. In the summer of 2008, she was Associate Producer for Nickelodeon's "My Family's Got GUTS". These positions have given her a broad understanding of production from show concept and development through post and delivery.

She began teaching in 2004 with a full television production program at the middle school level. After 5 years, Ms. Gentle moved up to high school where she currently teaches digital video production to 9th through 12th graders.

Ms. Gentle holds a BA degree in Communications - Television and Radio Production and is certified as 'Technical Vocational Education - Television Production'.