Remembering “Why” You Teach: How to Rediscover Why You Do What You Do

By: | 04/07/2021
Category: Leadership

Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

What drove you to become an educator?

What keeps you motivated every Monday?

Every educator gets into education for a specific reason. Perhaps you want to make a difference, or you know that your greater purpose on this planet is to help others. Maybe you were inspired by a great teacher—or a terrible one—and you wanted to do better, be better, and inspire more students to learn. All of us have it—it’s our “why.” It’s our why that drives us every day.

You deserve to feel empowered, inspired, and fulfilled every day. It’s a human right, not a privilege. Unfortunately, however, many of us are buried under life. There are so many demands on our attention, time, and energy, and it’s easy to forget our greater purpose and our deep why. But for educators, forgetting your why can have real, long-lasting consequences. Forgetting your why can lead to stress, being overwhelmed, and eventual burnout. You deserve to feel fulfilled, and so do your students!

What is your why? In Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team, author Simon Sinek says, “Every one of us has a WHY, a deep-seated purpose, cause, or belief that is the source of our passion and inspiration. You may not yet know what yours is or how to express it in words. But we guarantee, you have one.”

Let’s break that down . . .

A "cause or belief that is the source of our passion and inspiration.”

As an educator, I bet you can pinpoint that source of passion and inspiration—you just need a little nudge to remind you.

Let’s remember your why.

Find Your Teacher Why Exercise

Are you ready to connect with your why? It’s pretty easy; you just need some time. Set aside 15–20 minutes to do this exercise.

Grab your journal, or just a pen and paper, and something you can use to keep track of time, such as a watch or your phone (turn the notifications to “do not disturb”). Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, then find a quiet place.

Take a deep breath. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Now answer these questions:

  • Why are you in education?
  • What led you to this point?
  • What is the best moment you’ve ever had as an educator?
  • How did that moment make you feel?
  • What are your dreams for your students?
  • What does your ideal classroom/school look and sound like?

Write until the timer goes off. Write whatever comes to mind.

Once you’ve gotten all the thoughts out of your head and onto the page, reread what you wrote and circle any words that really stand out to you.

Finally, reread those words and try to write them in one sentence using the framework: “To ____ so ____.” This statement is your why.

For example, my why is:

To inspire, educate, and empower educators so they can inspire, educate, and empower students. I see a world where every student owns their learning and educators support them every step of the way.

It’s your turn. We’d love to hear from you! What is your why? Connect with Curriculum Associates on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram, or send us a message at blog@cainc.com.

Once you have your why, make sure you share it with your students, friends, and families. Stay connected to it! It will be your guiding light in the dark.

If this post struck a chord, you might be interested in reading Danielle’s professional paper on teacher self-care, well-being, and stress management, The Connection Cure: Why Educators Need Balance, Laughter, and Community More Than Ever.

Read the Professional Paper
Teacher and students sitting on the floor.

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