Never Lose the Why

I love GapingVoid cartoons.  Here is the one that I am most recently in love with:

Never Lose the Why

As a fan of Simon Sinek and “Start With Why?”, this cartoon is a great reminder for once you have your why pinned down – or as pinned down as defining your purpose can get.

It is also a good reminder for teachers when we ask things of our kids in our classroom.

  • WHY is this worth their time?
  • WHY are we doing this?
  • WHY do we need to do it?
  • WHY did I do it this way?
  • WHY not something else?

I would like to believe that most teachers have a pretty good idea of why they teach.  Sometimes when we move from the philosophical  ideals to the human reality of bodies in the room, administrators, parents, and our own personal lives, we have the potential to lose the ‘why’ that drove us to this profession in the first place.

Don’t do that. Or at the very least, resist at every turn! Keep an eye on your why.  And live it, daily, in your classroom.

A great example of someone who consistently lives out his why, is the CEO of the YMCA here in Boise, Jim Everett.  We visited with him for the second year on our passion tour and again, Jim was hugely popular with my students.  The letters they wrote him were heartfelt and just amazing.  Jim told the story of the death of his dad when he was in third grade and the huge impact that had on his life. One of my kids concluded his letter with, “If your dad were alive today, he would be the proudest dad in the world.”  Yes. Yes he would.

As he did last year, Jim wrote back to us and this year reminded us of the “P” words that he lives his life by and encouraged us to live our lives by.  I turned his words into the following as a visual reminder to always look to fulfill your purpose and never lose sight of your why: (PDF Download)

Jim Everett Manifesto

Rising Above

On Friday morning, I met with about half of my class parents to share with them about the upcoming PYP exhibition, to answer their questions, and to get a feel for where they were at in their understanding of the work ahead. I shared the following slideshow with them:

For detailed notes about each slide, take a look at the post on my class blog.

In addition, I shared a number of documents with my parents: an eight week tentative plan, single subject integration, language arts integration, exhibition rubric, weekly reflection criteria, and student contract. I also gave everyone a copy of the 16 Rules that I posted about earlier in the week.

After the meeting, I went back to my classroom and when my kids came in from recess, I told them that they would be working on the tasks we had discussed the previous afternoon, focused on our exhibition.  This is what “work” looks like in my classroom:

I was asked a lot of questions from my parents about final products, accountability, level of involvement, and how to “know” if kids are working and/or learning anything.  Here is what I know to be true:

  • if you set high expectations, kids will rise to meet them (and then exceed them)
  • kids are inspired by kids and will feed off each other (in a good way!)
  • kids know when they are working hard and when they are hardly working
  • kids don’t want to waste their time any more than we want them wasting their time
  • what looks like “wasting time” to us, is often a valuable learning experience for kids
  • kids have a way of viewing the world that often exceeds our world view

I think we all have kids in our class who struggle.  Their struggles may be with confidence, time-management, organization, academic skills, social interactions….the list goes on. Undertaking a unit of inquiry of the magnitude of the exhibition is a real challenge – for any 10 or 11 year old. But does that mean that because it is hard, we shouldn’t do it?  No.  Because:

Source: seesawdesigns.blogspot.com via Sonya on Pinterest

When I asked my kids “Who is ultimately responsible for your Exhibition journey?” I got a resounding and unanimous “We are!!” from my kids.  And I trust them, so I trust that this is true.  They know they have the support of their teachers, mentors, parents and myself, and now they just have to trust in their own abilities.  It is really hard to let go of some of that control.  To sit back and to watch where the journey takes each child without constantly wanting to move the rudder and steer them where we think they should go.  

I am learning that the Exhibition is a great learning ground for students: it is a chance for them to shine, to showcase their skills, to develop new skills, to become independent, and to experience hard work, failure, success and learning. As adults, it is also a great learning ground for us: a chance for us to trust we have prepared them well, to take a bigger step back, to guide without overshadowing, and to trust in the process and the journey.

What I know to be true is that I am seeing, already, kids rising. Rising to the challenge.  Rising above my expectations.

More than ever, I believe that children learn best when personally invested in what they are learning about.  And it is a pretty awesome thing to watch.