When Our WHY to Teach Changes, What's Next?
I recently listened to a podcast about losing motivation and it didn't have anything to do with education. As I listened to it, the hosts went deep into why one of their listeners had lost his motivation to work on what he had previously had a lot of passion for. My teacher brain flipped on immediately, as I have found many times, throughout my career, where I have had no motivation to work on anything that has to do with my classroom, my students, or my development as a professional in educaton. WHY? Here's why:
1. My original WHY doesn't fit my life anymore.
When I think back to when I first decided to go into education, I can tell you EXACTLY what my WHY was. My husband did it. We were young parents, in college, and were juggling many things: school work, our jobs to pay rent and buy food, parenthood, and not to mention our relationship. When I stop and think about it now, it was the right choice. I was a mom right out of high school and being in a school was all I knew. My why was, "This is what I know. I have been a student my whole life, on a school schedule. I have been watching teachers teach my whole life, so this is something that should be easy for me to learn how to do. This is comfortable, this is what is best for our family." And so I went with that, and BOOM, I became a teacher.
Over the years, I have become very passionate about education and the need for it to become highest on the totem pole in terms of money, time, and attention that should be given to it. Without education, there is little else that can be improved in anyone's life, young or old. I have also become passionate about the use of technology in education and the ways that it can literally change the way teachers teach and the way learners learn, with the push of a button.
But what if my original WHY isn't enough anymore?
2. My current WHY isn't a really good one.
Earlier, I said that my WHY is college, was "This is what I know. I have been a student my whole life, on a school schedule. I have been watching teachers teach my whole life, so this is something that should be easy for me to learn how to do. This is comfortable, this is what is best for our family."
Obviously, this isn't my situation anymore, not completely. Am I in crunch time to decide what I want to be when I grow up? No. Am I balancing work, school, and a small child? No. But, I have never known what working 50 weeks a year is like. I have always had summers, Spring Breaks, weeks off for the Holiday, and have never had to drive to work when the roads were icy,snow covered, or if there was low visibility due to fog. Do I want those things to change? Not really, but I don't feel that my original WHY for teaching sat me up to be motivated to love it forever.
My WHY has changed, and maybe my WHY has become those breaks and long summer days. Does that make me a bad teacher? I don't think so. But, it doesn't make me fulfilled either. If my WHY for teaching is only to be away from my students, colleagues, and my chosen profession, that probably means that I have to do some deep soul searching to find a new WHY to teach or find a new profession, ultimately.
3. People change, and so do WHY's.
So here is what I have concluded about my WHY problem. My original WHY didn't lend itself to lighting a fire that would never go out. Unfortunately, I didn't grow up knowing that I wanted to be in education. I really didn't know what I wanted to do at all. My WHY had to do with my immediate situation. And that situation has changed.
My current WHY isn't fair. It isn't fair to my students, my corporation, and it especially isn't fair to me. I go to work, most days, wishing that I could work on something else. I know that I want to help another cause, and another type of person. And I have to be ok with that. If I'm don't acknowledge this feeling of needing something new in my life, not only will I continue to feel burned-out, I will drop into a fit of inevitable depression. That's not good for anyone.
My new WHY ignites a fire that makes me understand WHY I went into education. WHY I struggled. WHY I continued to press on. And that why is YOU, reader. These issues, these questions, these moments where no one understands how we are feeling day in and day out about working with kids have to be acknowledged and they are not. Someone has to be here for us.
We have this ONE life. Shouldn't we have the courage and the self-awareness to acknowledge our need for change in WHY we do what we do for a living? I say, we stop and listen when we clearly need to rethink our WHY. Really listen to the thoughts in our head and take some action. That action could be a conversation with a fellow teacher or administrator. It could be an all-out overhaul of our classroom, or possibly a complete overhaul of our career.
I encourage you to think about your WHY and BURN ON. Whether that fire leads you down the path of a new role in education or a new role in life.
Comment below and tell me your WHY. Why did you become a teacher? WHY do you continue to teach?