Hold On to Your “Why”

Teacher Tips

Nov 15

Holding onto WhyThe teachers who stay in teaching, the teachers who become really great teachers are those that find and live their why. If you lose sight of why you want to teach, the challenges of teaching will overwhelm you. Your why will give you focus, it will give you energy on the days when you are discouraged, it will give you the commitment to stick with a kid who you’d rather give up on or persist with doing the right thing even when everything seems to conspire against it. Your why will feed your passion. Your why will ignite your creativity. Your why will show you how to become a master teacher and let you know when you’ve made it there.

Perhaps you know your why already. Maybe you want to make a difference or you want to help students love math, or you want to show students that they have options and possibilities. Wonderful! Do whatever you can to hold onto that why and find a way to feed it each day. Don’t let a day go by without making a small difference or helping one student come a little closer to loving math, or showing at least one student his possibilities no matter how small.

Or maybe you’re unsure of your why yet. You know that you enjoy teaching and working with students and you may even feel that the work you are doing is important and meaningful, but you are unsure of why it is important and meaningful to you. You’re working with a why you’ve borrowed from a book or from your school’s mission or from the excitement generated by the organization that recruited you to teaching. But I urge you to find your own why. A borrowed why may be inspiring for a while, but it will not feed you and sustain you when things get tough. You have to have your own very personal reasons for why you are teaching Otherwise, you are vulnerable to ___, or worse, disillusionment, every time you face frustration.

And some of you may have lost your why. The demands of your job, the pressures you’re under, the disillusionment you may feel at the difference between your ideals and your reality may have caused you to abandon your why or feel that you cannot accomplish it in your current situation. It can happen to any of us.

But you must find it again. You must. Otherwise you do yourself and your students a disservice. Your why will show you the way through disillusionment and it will shore you up against developing cynicism. Your why will help you infuse meaning in your work even when what you are currently being asked to do currently seems meaningless. Your why will help you maintain your passion in even the worst of circumstances.

And that really is the point. Many teachers we work with have lost their why and are “phoning it in” by the time they come to us. They are just getting through the day, over-worked, overwhelmed, and sometimes over-wrought. They want solutions but have given up hope that things can actually get better. We’ve learned over the years that these feelings are a direct result of losing sight of your why. So the work we do with them first is really around helping them reconnect with and find ways to feed their own why. The difference is always immediate and dramatic. We haven’t changed their situation, the demands and pressures still exist, but somehow, when you reconnect with your why, all those things that seemed impossible suddenly seem doable.

That’s the power of finding and protecting your why.

So please, we beg you, take some time this month to reconnect with your own why. If you need help, check out this month’s TIP Sheet (exclusive to newsletter subscribers) for 5 Ways to Find Your Why.

And, we’d love hear what your own personal why is.  Inspire us and your colleagues by telling us why you teach in the comments section below.
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