Last week, I wrote an article called, Teachers Don’t Need to Find Their WHY. Its main point was that the vast majority of teachers don’t struggle to find meaning in their work; they know why they became a teacher. What’s frustrating and at times demoralizing is their feeling that they cannot pursue their WHY. The article generated a lot of interest and some discussion, but it was not optimistic and failed to provide any solutions to the problem. Fortunately, some readers offered advice.
One of those readers was Bill Cecil, who taught for more than thirty years. Bill was the 2003-2004 Michigan Teacher of the Year, and he spent much of his career inspiring teachers to be effective leaders through high-energy presentations and his book, Best Year Ever. His website includes 100 short videos that can help any teacher improve his/her practice. Bill is endlessly positive, which is why I’m sharing his response to my article below. If you’re looking for a way to reengage with your WHY, then follow Bill’s advice.
“I hope you are right about most teachers already knowing their WHY. If so, with all the many distractions and challenges going on in education right now pulling teachers in many different directions, maybe there are some teachers who can use your article to reconnect with their purpose. I will say, I do disagree with you that teachers aren’t being allowed to pursue their purpose. Maybe this is their perception, but it does not have to be their reality! Please let me explain.
Throughout my 30+ years teaching, I used my teaching and time in my classroom each day to pursue my purpose by trying to uplift, elevate, and empower my students to believe in themselves, adopt and/or maintain a growth mindset, always give their best effort, and try to approach each day looking for things to get excited and happy about.
I NEVER once asked anyone or waited for anyone to give me permission to do that–or waited for the conditions to be just right for me to be able to pursue my purpose! Instead, I just learned to filter all the WHATS (what I was being told to teach), WHENS (when to teach my lessons), and HOWS (being told how to teach my lessons) and anything else I was being mandated to do through my WHY(my purpose) each day.
I would always try to keep my focus on my bigger mission while going about all the other business, which seemed to cut down on my students’ and my stress, help create a more positive, productive learning environment, and to be able to drive home each day still feeling tired as all hell but satisfied and fulfilled knowing that I was making a difference in my classroom!
Over my long career, I saw many, many WHATS, WHENS, HOWS, and other challenges come and go…But my WHY never changed! I used it like my North Star to keep me on the path I entered this profession to pursue. I would encourage those of you still teaching to do the same thing!!
There are many things teachers don’t have a lot of control over, but I STILL BELIEVE no one can ever take away your ability to teach with purpose (and to positively impact your students) each and every day!! I wish all of you still teaching the very best and the courage to always pursue your purpose for teaching with passion!”
So, what do you think?
Are you able to pursue your WHY in your school?
What makes doing so harder than it should be?
Knowing what you now know, what is something you would tell your younger self?
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