Motivation Monday: The Inspirational Quotes I Gave My Students

When I was teaching English in the Dominican Republic, I liked to give my high school-level classes inspirational quotes for them to ponder as a starting activity. Sometimes this would turn into a discussion about historical figures and thought leaders, other times they’d add words to their vocabulary arsenal. Other times, they’d just learn Miss K’s life philosophy.

I’ve been a Pinterest user for a while, which I turned to not only for inspiration on how to decorate my classroom and bulletin board, bus as a source for inspirational quotes.

Bulletin board
My cool bulletin board for 10th grade. Thanks Pinterest!

These quotes in part encouraged not only to pursue working abroad, but also inspired me to keep going during my year abroad. Sharing them with my students enabled them to consider their own goals, dreams and attitudes towards their own lives.

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

This quote is particularly powerful as it asks each of us to consider whether failure is stopping us from doing what we truly wanted to do. Whether it is starting a rock band, curing cancer, or simply spending more time with family, this question forces us to address what our true goals are. Of course my students all wanted As.

Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.

This quote by Yogi Bhajan is valuable for us all, and especially English learners, as it invites us to reflect on the word “light.” Light could mean, in a traveling or lifestyle context, to utilize or carry fewer things. In the second half of the quote, “light” shifts to warmth, strength and inspiration. By living a free lifestyle, one can shine on for others.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.

Henry Thoreau’s quote is a purely inspirational one, but it encourages us to move towards our goals and dreams. It also encourages the reader to follow the life of their own imagination, not the dreams of others.

Life will test you but remember this, when you walk up a mountain your legs get stronger.

My students particularly liked this quote as it encouraged them to keep studying, practicing their sport, or working towards their goals. The metaphor was particularly useful to them as it demonstrated that it is not easy to reach the summit of a mountain but it is a worthwhile effort.

Get up, dress up, show up and never give up.

This quote lists a few easy tasks (waking up in the morning, arriving to an event) but is still forceful. With these simple actions, you can persevere. Just get out of bed, get dressed and keep going. No matter how hard it is, keep going.

So it goes.

This simple Kurt Vonnegut quote reminds us that things happen as they may. To me, this means that things happen, and it’s ok. That they just simply happen.

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

This quote is valuable for its play on the word “richer”. Of course travel doesn’t automatically improve your finances, in fact it may be quite the opposite, but what you gain is more valuable. My students nodded their head in approval to this one, once they understood the double meaning.

What are your favorite quotes and why?

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