I met a teacher this week who had driven 20 hours, alone, to attend a workshop. He came from Northern Quebec to Quebec City. When I asked him why he had decided to attend, he said that he wanted to improve his professional practice. He knew that, in order to meet the needs of his students, he had to be a lifelong learner. He came with a purpose. And, his purpose inspired others…
This young man was attending Solution Tree’s very first 2019 PLC at Work Institute. There were amazing keynote addresses and then break out sessions were offered by seven of us. Teachers and school leaders could select what they wanted to attend. I met my friend from Northern Quebec on the very last day in the very last session. He arrived to my room a little late and quietly joined a table of teachers who were already working. For a little while, he didn’t offer much commentary but as the session continued, he became more and more animated. In fact, his passion for teaching and learning was soon apparent. He asked great questions and added so much to our conversations. His enthusiasm for his students was contagious. Everyone in the room was impacted by his questions, comments and his interest.
Over the three days of the institute, I had so many great opportunities to learn from others. Of course, the other presenters inspired me as their thoughtful messages challenged my thinking. But, it was the participants that really impacted me. In sessions or just in one-on-one conversations, I was reminded of the challenges facing the educators. I heard about their students and the work that the teachers were doing behind the scenes to make sure that they were continuously improving their schools. I reflected with them as they asked questions about next steps and how to continue to positively grow and do the right work. We problem-solved together and made plans for when they returned to their schools. And, mostly, I felt their passion and purpose.
What does it mean to have purpose in our lives? What does it look like when it shows up? Will it keep you focused and intentional in your work? Can it motivate others? Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behaviors and create synergy for what we are doing. For some people, purpose is connected to commitments and the conviction for our work. It helps us understand the “why” before the “what”. And when purpose is missing, we may be doing things out of habit or in compliance with expectations. In other words, we might still be following through with actions but our heart isn’t in it. We are operating more from “I have to do this” instead of “I am doing this because I know why it is the right thing to do.”
In my school improvement work, it is important for me to help my schools understand the why of our work. I do not believe that we can continuously improve schools without deep commitment to purpose. Educators are often told what to do but, it is when they have an opportunity to build common understanding of why they are doing the work, that real change happens. The young teacher from Northern Quebec who drove hours to learn was a great teacher to us all. His purpose was inspiring and motivating. When you believe so deeply in something, it is really hard for others not to feel inspired. When you know your purpose, it can keep you focused and motivated. And when that purpose is about improving student learning, it doesn’t get any better than that!
So, I challenge you to think about your purpose. Your “why”. Do you have clarity on it. Do you need to revisit, review and refresh your reasons for doing things? Could this help you feel more focused and intentional in your work? Have a great week. Thanks for reading and I look forward to being with you next Saturday.