Why do we teach? Today, in the age of high-stakes testing and ever-revolving reforms, we seem to focus more on the how and what of teaching, rather than the overarching why that called us to action in the first place. Strung in every direction, we too easily lose sight of the teacher selves we strive to be. Too often we get caught in inauthentic systems, and as such we march right on the precipice of burnout.
It is important to ask, what kills the spirit of the educator? For it is not simply the loads that we bear — the stressors, the battles, the toiling into the night. What kills us, instead, is the realization that our toil may be for nought: that our most authentic selves shall not belong in the work of teaching. That what we do does not match what we NEED to do to matter.
As such, perhaps the greatest lift to our spirits is to revisit our North Star: as Zac Chase ritualizes each year, Why we want to teach. Why do we teach, after all? If we shall find the values and purposes that drive us, perhaps then we may be more conscious of the practices that so deceive us — and we may toil instead to do the work that matters in our hearts.
- drafting mission statements: Why I Want to Teach
- annotating text to identify teaching values (idealized and enacted)
- comparing values to current practices and routines in our classes/schools
- collaborating towards systems and practices that better match our authentic selves, through design thinking exercises ie storyboarding, scenario planning, fear setting
- learning other systems for survival and thriving, such as networked support for new teachers and 80/20 practice to identify the moves that matter most