I have been lucky to hear Dave Faulkner from Education Changemakers speak twice in the past few weeks. Dave’s business card says that he is the Director, but, he is also a teacher, principal, entrepreneur, innovator, educator, promoter of change and captivating orator and I have, not only, pinched a method for generating ideas from his presentations, but also, a new paradigm for my teaching.
One of Dave’s principle pieces of advice is to know the why underpinning what you do. Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on the topic is great – what you do and how you do it is not as important as why you do it. Knowing this will make your marketing (read: teaching) more successful as well as improve your headspace. This semester, I am going to take my why into school with me every day and sell why to my students too.
Dave suggested a few potential ways to end the sentence, “I became a teacher because…” The why behind teaching could be the amazing pay that provides financial security or the way the rest of society respects teachers so much. The room roared with laughter at this point. In all seriousness, one of the genuine reasons Dave offered was the opportunity to work with students that amaze every day.
At the recent mid-year intensive program, each Associate took a moment to share the story of a student, who inspires them. As our attention snaked across the room from Associate to Associate, almost every student described sounded like another inspirational student with whom I am lucky to work, so much so that it was difficult to choose only one to share.
In the end, I chose a student that, not only, inspires me, but also, students around her. When I looked at the concept of grit with my students and worked through what it means and looks like in the classroom, other students pointed to this particular student. She is the embodiment of grit: diligent and persistent, while also humble and curious.
This is not the only type of student that is inspirational though. I have another student, who works almost every afternoon and weekend, until late at night, yet is always in class, albeit tired, and never misses a beat. Another, who spends afternoons sharing the care of her baby brother, misses weeks of school for family and health reasons, yet can turn over an essay in one period.
Additionally, there is the student, who did not engage with anyone around him for a whole term, yet now smiles on occasion and takes part in class. And the student, who was resistant to feedback earlier in the year, groaned and sighed at the thought of improving her work, yet found steadfastness and lifted her essay to a level of sophistication years beyond her peers.
Ultimately, I cannot narrow my why to just one reason, one sentence. I became a teacher because I get to work with inspirational students every day. I became a teacher because education is powerful and provides the tools for students to lead a life of their choosing. I became a teacher because of these students and I did not even know them, when I started.