I am away at a conference right now. Truth be told this would not have been my first choice. It takes a lot for me to pack up my four little ones and spend three nights away. It is an amazing thing that I have such a supportive and awesome family who steps in to help. My mom, sisters, and brother are watching the little cherubs while Scott is on night shift and I am here. Again, blessed beyond measure.
Today we discussed the idea of the “WHY?” In our classrooms, we often start out a discussion with a focus question. The “teacher” presents the question and then gives time to write out an appropriate response based on what we think or previous knowledge. Material and presentation is given and then the question is revisited. Today I was asked “why are you a teacher?”
I wrote “I am a teacher because I believe that effective life habits and attitudes are formed in childhood. I want children to know that each and everyone is valued, important, and will impact the future in a drastic way- one way or another.” The conversation that followed was a fascinating one.
We spent time discussing why some people “buy into” certain products and why some flop. Why some people inspire and others never seem to grab much of a following. A video we watched made an intriguing statement. People don’t buy what you do, but they are buying the why you do it. Let me explain.
The presenter drew one circle and labeled it “why.” He then drew another circle encasing this circle and labeled it the “how.” The final circle that encased both of the previous circles was called the “what.” Now, the what circle, which lies on the outside is the what we so. It is the rational part of our brain. It is the what I do everyday such as plan lessons, implement ideas, and assess data. Certainly a look into my daily life won’t inspire most to take up the cause of public education and fight alongside of me. The middle circle is the how. How am I teaching? How do I get the job done?
Finally the middle circle-the WHY- is in the center. A very symbolic place for it to land. The why is the part of the brain in which lies the feelings center. This is where trust and loyalty lie. Science has proven that this is the part of the brain that drives behavior. My “why” is my purpose, my call, or my belief system. This is how I explain why someone should care. People won’t buy the what you are doing until they know why you are doing it.
The speaker told of the tale of Martin Luther King Jr. Why did so many years ago, gather on the lawn of the white house to hear him speak? It wasn’t for him. It was to hear what he believed. He did not call out “I have a plan….” He did not tell them what he was going to do or how he was going to do it. No. He cried out “I believe….” And then so did we. We hear why he believed that all men were endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. They didn’t show up to hear Dr. King. They showed up in a place with a common belief.
We follow those who inspire not because we have to, but rather because we want to. Because we come to a place with a common belief system and want to shout Amen! Often times, we ourselves can’t put it into words, but when we hear it-we know it. So here is my question. Why public education? Why am I a teacher? Why do my children attend public education? Why do I believe that this system of education is so critical to the development of our nation’s most valuable resource- the child?
I believe that each child has been blessed by God with a destiny and God given purpose. I believe it is essential to each little soul to have people cheering for them, working with them, and pushing them beyond what they thought possible. I believe someone has to carry a vision for them. I believe sometimes I may be the only voice that child hears. And even if my voice is part of a chorus rather than a solo, I believe my voice has a role to play.
I believe that the building of a community full of respect for all people starts with me and my classroom. I believe that it is my responsibility to foster attitudes of kindness, respect, trustworthiness, and cooperation among peers. I believe that it is my place to challenge preconceived notions or misguided assumptions and present my students with real life solutions.
I believe it is my responsibility to challenge my problem solvers of today with ideas and discoveries that will expand their world. That the children I teach will someday solve our disasters and diseases of tomorrow. It is my responsibility to encourage innovative thinking, responsibility for oneself, and a compassion for those less fortunate.
I believe that each and every child will bring with him or her a future. Their lives will touch many other lives. It is the domino effect. Who knows why I am handed this group of children this year? Perhaps, for a time such as this. Each child I touch, mentor, guide, and teach is no accident. It is a divine appointment set by the one who knows better than I the needs of each soul I blessed to come into contact with.
Why do I teach? Because I believe in a better future. Because I believe that the future oak trees of tomorrow are being planted in my classroom today. I teach because I believe every child, regardless of his/her circumstance deserves a chance at a bright future filled with promise and hope. I am proud to do what I do. I am even prouder to share why I do what I do.