Wednesday, July 22, 2015

3 Questions For Every New Teacher (And One All Important Answer)


If you have spent any time watching TED Talks, you have probably come across Simon Sinek's talk about leadership.  His breakthrough, the "Golden Circle" can be explained like this: In any organization and in our individual lives and careers, we function in 3 levels:
1. What we do
2. How we do it
3. Why we do it

Taking the time to answer these questions can prove to be a valuable exercise in self reflection for any teacher, new or experienced.   

As teachers, we implicitly know what we do, we deliver content, we inspire learning, we motivate learners, we educate, we instruct, we tutor, we coach, we train . . . the list continues.   No new teacher or experienced teacher would have trouble answering question number 1.  

New teachers may be a bit fuzzy on the second question.  How do we do it?  Many of these answers will come with time.  Your answer to question 2 will evolve and change over the years as you hone your craft and become an expert in pedagogy.  The beauty of the second question, is that, as a teacher, you will be able to personalize the answer to fit the subject the mood and the learners. You will learn new techniques, be exposed to new programs, adopt new textbooks, try new practices, and new initiatives. Many will try to tell you that all this change is bad.  You will hear this again and again.  But, once you embrace this constant changing landscape, you will find it to be a source of delight, triumph, satisfaction, and interest in your career. This is one of the greatest joys of teaching. NEVER let anyone tell you anything to the contrary.  Question number 2 is what sets you apart, is the source of pride in your career. 

As a new teacher, the sooner you can communicate and reflect on WHY you do what you do, the more focused and content you will become. WHY is your cause, your belief, and as Simon Sinek explains; "It's the reason you get up in the morning."  Take some time to reflect on this.  Once you have a clear understanding of your why, make a symbol of it.  Hang that symbol where you will see it every day as your inspiration, your drive, your conviction.  

For the first few years of my teaching career, if someone would have asked me question 3, I would have answered "I love kids" or "I want to help kids learn"  and I am sure that most teachers today would answer with some iteration of this response.  It's all about the kids, nothing more - nothing less. This is noble, responsible, and expected.  I relish the vision of a multitude of teachers waking up every morning thinking about the impact they will make on the hearts and minds of their young learners.  

Since watching Simon Sinek's TED talk, and reading his book Start With Why, I have spent the last couple years pondering the "Why" question.   Of course the answer still has to do with the kids, but it has evolved to go beyond that.   Deeper, if you will.   In my next post, I will try to explain my "Why".  It has much to do with our responsibility as citizens to move the world forward.   The evolution and refinement of my "Why" was bolstered when I read this book by Joel Westheimer:


Of course, my next post will focus on service learning.  

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