Made4Math - What is Your WHY?

Today's #Made4Math is a bit different, but I think it is a good, reflective "project" for back to school.

Last year, I started a new job as one of our school's two instructional coaches.  Our principal was reading Simon Sinek's book Start With Whyand she thought ideas in the book would be good for our faculty, and she wanted us to implement something.  I immediately downloaded the book, watched Sinek's TED talk, and started thinking about how we could carry out the idea of a WHY for our school and teachers.  (It was very interesting to read a "business" book and relate it to teaching and education, by the way.)

According to Sinek, every person and organization knows What they do and most know How they do it, but few can clearly state Why they do what they do.  He asks you to determine: what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief, and why does your organization exist? 

To encourage our teachers to develop their WHY's, we introduced the concept during our August professional development days.  We allowed each department time to prepare a WHY, and then we shared all of the creations.  Teams took pictures, wrote a philosophy, performed a skit, and the math department may or may not have choreographed a dance.  ("Math Rocks, baby," a la "Ice Ice baby."  If you've got a problem, we’ll all solve it. Check out the math, it’s not magic it’s logic...could have happened...)  My personal WHY is this quote by Benjamin Disraeli: The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.  All of the WHY's had the same themes and were about helping the kids succeed, moving students closer to graduation, preparing them for the future, and becoming good citizens in the community.

My work partner and I chose the sayings below as our WHY.  We typed up the quotes, got a frame, and put the flyer in a prominent location in our office.  As in any new role, there were several times during the year that we were both floundering; however, any time we questioned our work, our progress, and our leadership, we would refer to our WHY.  Had we helped our teachers?  Did we ease anyone else's burden?  At a particularly stressful time in May, I moved our WHY very close to our desks to remind us that yes, we had succeeded and had a good year.  

How does this relate to #Made4Math?  Because our WHY helped focus us throughout the year, I decided to make our "poster" a bit prettier, thanks to @mathtastrophe's tutoring on ColourLovers.  (She was right, and even a non-artsy person like me could spend a long time on the site playing with patterns and palettes.)  I can't wait to hang our WHY in our office!

For you...
I would like to encourage you to ask yourself, “What is my WHY?”  What is your purpose or your cause for being a teacher?  If you are a veteran teacher, why do you remain a teacher?  Type up your WHY and put it in a frame; share it with your students, make it a screen saver, stick it on a post-it by your computer, or write it on your board.  New educators--you usually write a teaching philosophy during your prep programs, but can you condense your feelings into a sentence or two?  Veteran teachers: when have you formally re-stated your reasons WHY you became a teacher?  (It's time to think about those reasons again!) 

On your challenging days, and you know they'll happen, look over your WHY, meditate for a minute, and remember the excitement and the enthusiasm you felt on the first day of school.

Have a wonderful week!  If this is your first week back, good luck and have fun!
Share on Google Plus

About Kathryn Laster

I love teaching, learning, and sharing!
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


  1. Fantastic idea. I think it took me about 5 years of teaching to truly figure out my "why". I like the idea of condensing it down to a sentence or two or a quote...that's pretty much what my "everybody is a genius" quote means to me.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It truly made me pause and think. I know why I teach; now I need to summarize it in one sentence and hang it in my room!!

  3. What a great idea! It's easy to get caught up what we need to do and lose focus on WHY we are doing it. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!

  5. Getting to the "why's" in math is so often neglected. I've been looking for people for a while who are interested in creating an overarching collection of 'big ideas' (aka "why's") for math curricula that would finally answer the age old question: "Why do I have to learn this? What good will it be to me in my real life?" with something better than: "Because it's good for you and will open doors later in life."