So recently I had the wonderful opportunity to re-read one of of my favorite books, as well as the chance to have my eyes and heart opened by some unexpected people, in some unexpected places. Collectively, these experiences got me thinking a lot about the importance of meaning and purpose in our lives, and the responsibility we have as educators to instill this life focus in our students and children. Hopefully as teachers, we have eagerly and specifically chosen this profession because of the unmatched and unlimited purpose and meaning that comes with the territory. In my opinion, educating children and young adults is not only fulfilling, rewarding, and extraordinarily meaningful but hugely daunting as well. It’s not enough to simply teach our students the course content, or all we know about reading, writing, and arithmetic…….we NEED to teach them about courage, love, service, empathy, and all that goes into leading a life of meaning. We have a deep and urgent responsibility to prepare our kids for life outside of the school walls, and we need to be held accountable for ensuring that each student has opportunities to see, and find, purpose in their lives.
In Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive”, he talks about the power of intrinsic motivation, and how leading a life of purpose and meaning is a fundamental need and want of every individual. He goes on to say that a person’s happiness is directly related to how much meaning they find in their work, and how there is an increasingly significant shift in what young people are looking for out of their lives. It is no longer about how much money they can make, or how successful they can be, it’s about the positive difference that they can make in the world and in other people’s lives. Pink often talks about how “meaning” is the new money, and I wonder how much we are doing to emphasize this in the contact days that we have with our students. Are we really looking to connect and relate what we are teaching in a way that allows our kids to see the purpose in it…..or the meaning? Are students leaving our classrooms with a better understanding of who they are, and a better sense of who they can be? I know that they are becoming better readers, and scientists, and mathematicians but are they becoming better people? If it’s not a confident and resounding yes!, then I think we should re-evaluate our own purpose and meaning as educators.
I was in Cambodia again over the holiday, and we decided as a family to go on a tour of a local floating village. I was talking with our guide about the abject poverty of the
people, and how sad it must be for them to live like this when he told me that I had it all wrong. He just happened to be a retired teacher and what he said brought me back to what is truly important in life. He said that even though they have no money and live in make shift shacks with none of the amenities that we take for granted, these people are happy! They are fishermen and farmers and each one of them has meaning and purpose in their lives. They provide food for their family, the teach their children how to farm and fish, they come together as families and a community at night, and each one of them is thankful for what they have. They all value each others contributions and worth in the village and they understand their place in the world. The kids see a purpose in their lives/future and are intrinsically and intensely motivated to contribute back their surrounding community……..these children want for nothing and are truly happy he said! I wondered about how many of our students are this genuinely happy with their lives, and how many have the same level of confidence in who they are, and where they are going in life?
I also had the opportunity recently to go recruiting at the Queen’s University job fair, and the overall experience made me ridiculously excited about the future of our profession. I interviewed a dozen or so young teachers and to be honest, I was blown away by the questions that they were asking of me. It wasn’t all about the salary, or the housing allowance, or the opportunities for travel during the school holidays……….it was all about the vision of our school, the commitment to service learning, the opportunities to coach or provide after school clubs for kids, and whether or not our faculty had a common purpose. They were acutely aware of what they wanted out of their careers and it inspired the hell out of me. I think that this week we should measure the amount of meaning and purpose that we each currently have in our lives, and ask ourselves if we’re getting what we need out of our current situations……..are our students getting what they need and deserve out of their school days, and are they aware of it? Are we really helping them find their meaning and purpose in life, and are we truly taking advantage ours?
Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week……..
“No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness, and the generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.” ~Emma Goldman
Victor Frankl on Meaning and Purpose