Simon Sinek reminds us in his book and his TED talk to start with the why (You can watch the TED talk here). We can’t be truly effective and true to ourselves until we establish the why. The summer is always a great time for teachers to reexamine their career choice and reestablish their “why” for teaching. After a rough year of demanding students and administrators, as well as calls for education reform, public teacher accountability, and inadequate funding, it is easy to lose focus on why we really are teaching. Will you join me in reflecting on why you will continue to teach in 2015-2016?
About 17 years ago, I made a big change in my college and career plans as I transitioned from a degree in agriculture to a degree in education. I’m sure that at that time I had some great ideas about why I wanted to teach and how I was going to single-handedly save the world through education. With experience, those ideas wane, and we run the risk of becoming burned out. That’s why I’m spending a few minutes again to remind myself why I continue to teach.
As I enter my 15th year of teaching, I am as committed as ever to providing my students with access to the curriculum. I am excited to be embarking on my second year teaching with the Next Generation Science Standards; however, this isn’t the true reason that I’m teaching. I’m teaching because I believe that education is transformative. I believe that education provides students with opportunities for improvement in their lives that are unavailable to people without education. I believe that all students deserve to graduate from high school college and career ready. I know that college and career readiness is a big buzz word (or phrase) in education right now, and it may have lost some of its true meaning, but, to me, it means that students have a level of education that allows them to choose college or career when they graduate from high school. This means that we have not allowed our students to slack off, and that we’ve pushed them to excel so that they have the skills that they need to enter college or the workforce upon graduation.
I also believe, in the words of one of my heroes, Rita Pierson, that learning should bring joy to students. I believe that we can engage students’ hearts and minds in education, making learning fun for them. Fun is not the antithesis of rigor; they are not mutually exclusive.
Last year, I made a commitment to believe in all of my students. This year I want to commit to believe in and love all of my students and to push them further than they think they can go. Every child deserves to grow every day. I’ve got to work to make that happen.
This year, before heading back into the crazy school routine, take a minute and think about why you teach. Think about all of the students who are depending on you to believe in them. How far will you take them this year?