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Get Motivated: Inspirational Quotes for Students
by Elena Shvidko

At the beginning of the last year, I shared motivational quotes about teaching. With the coming of this New Year, I would like to share some quotes that we teachers can share with our students to motivate and encourage them. The ways you can implement these quotes in your classes are numerous: simply sharing them with students, asking them to write reflective responses on or share their opinion about these quotes, giving the quotes as topics for group discussions, asking students to illustrate the quotes with their life experiences, and many others. The quotes below are categorized into five thematic groups with ten quotes in each: power of education, power of learning, power of mistakes, power of reading, and power of perseverance. I hope you and your students will enjoy them.

Power of Education

  1. “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom” (George Washington Carver).
  2. “You can never be overdressed or overeducated” (Oscar Wilde).
  3. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela).
  4. “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” (John Dewey).
  5. “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” (Albert Einstein).
  6. “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” (Aristotle).
  7. “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” (Malcolm X).
  8. “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” (Benjamin Franklin).
  9. “Education is the movement from darkness to light” (Allan Bloom).
  10. “Education is the foundation upon we build our future” (Christine Gregoire).

Power of Learning

  1. “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow” (Anthony J. D’Angelo).
  2. “The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live” (Mortimer Adler).
  3. “Learning is like rowing upstream, not to advance is to drop back” (Chinese Proverb).
  4. “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking” (William Butler Yeats).
  5. “Learning is not a spectator sport” (D. Blocher).
  6. “The best way to predict your future is to create it” (Abraham Lincoln).
  7. “It is wiser to find out than to suppose” (Mark Twain).
  8. “Learning never exhausts the mind” (Leonardo da Vinci).
  9. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing is life is to keep your mind young” (Henry Ford).
  10. “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it” (Pablo Picasso).

Power of Mistakes 

  1. “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” (John Powell).
  2. “You will only fail to learn if you do not learn from failing” (Stella Adler).
  3. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over” (Richard Branson).
  4. “Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?” (Peter McWilliams).
  5. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure” (Bill Gates).
  6. “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently” (Henry Ford).
  7. “A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end” (Anonymous).
  8. “Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom” (Phyllis Theroux).
  9. “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field” (Niels Bohr).
  10. “Good people are good because they have come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success” (William Saroyan).

Power of Reading

  1. “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope” (Kofi Annan).
  2. “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free” (Frederick Douglass).
  3. “Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light” (Vera Nazarian).
  4. “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” (Richard Steele).
  5. “A parent or a teacher has only his lifetime; a good book can teach forever” (Louis L’Amour).
  6. “A book is a gift you can open again and again” (Garrison Keillor).
  7. “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library” (Jorge Luis Borges).
  8. “It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish” (S.I. Hayakawa).
  9. “Wear the old coat and buy the new book” (Austin Phelps).
  10. “He that loves reading has everything within his reach” (William Godwin).

Power of Perseverance

  1. “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer” (Albert Einstein).
  2. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it” (Maya Angelou).
  3. “I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking” (Og Mandino).
  4. “Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere” (Barack Obama).
  5. “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th” (Julie Andrews).
  6. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed” (Michael Jordan).
  7. “If people only knew how hard I’ve worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all” (Michelangelo).
  8. “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential” (John Maxwell).
  9. “A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying” (B. F. Skinner).
  10. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward” (Martin Luther King, Jr.).

*This article first appeared on the TESOL Blog, 19 January 2018.


Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.

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