Every summer I look forward to more time for exercise and usually that means a daily walk with something playing in my ear. Last week, it was Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action. This talk is not specifically about education but as usual, as I was listening , my brain started thinking about school. In his talk, Sinek explains what he believes make organizations and leadership successful. He says that the great leaders and organizations in the world are motivated, by what he calls, the golden circle or the why, how and what. And as he explained this theory, I was already applying it to what I have learned about teaching. In our job, we all know what we are supposed to do -educate students. And we are usually given the how – curriculum, supplies, professional development. But Sinek would argue that for most, it’s the why that is unclear. He says that very few people and organizations in the world know why they do what they do. What’s your purpose, your cause or belief, he asks. Why do any of us get up in the morning? Why do we teach?
I know why. And it’s more than just wanting to make sure my students are academically proficient. I want my 1st grade students to know how to learn, to ask questions, to collaborate with each other, to be able to solve problems and to push themselves to learn more. I want them be concerned, confident and compassionate citizens of the world.
Alicia and I are lucky enough to work at an elementary school that was built on the foundation of 5 pillars. These pillars not only guide our students ( K-5) but they provide the framework for our teaching. These pillars are “my why.”
We are self-directed learners
We encourage each other to think critically and learn more
We are concerned, confident and compassionate citizens of the world
We earn everywhere, we learn together
We are creative
In my classroom, students are learning to read, write, and work with numbers. They are doing projects and using technology to connect, capture and create new learning. But I know now that it’s the work we do around these pillars that drive my instruction and their learning. There is so much pressure around test scores and academics and yet very few administrators seem to care how we are teaching students these 21st century skills. I have learned that it’s these skills that push my students to think critically and learn more. It’s our daily classroom meetings that build community and help us work together to solve problems. It’s a mindset for learning that is explicitly taught.
We start the year by learning step by step what it means to be a self directed learner. Then we do the same to define what it means to be a critical thinker. And every day of the year we practice persistence, optimism, empathy, and resilience. This is why my students and my fellow teachers at Queen Anne Elementary are successful. It’s why I love my job, and why I look forward to getting to school each morning. I would love to hear your why. And of course, here’s the link to Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk.