Start with Why

Start with WHY, Simon Sinek’s first TED Talk in 2009 is the 3rd most watched ever. Sinek focuses on helping businesses find their WHY. I believe his concept is even more important in education. School is not about why. Students seldom get a meaningful answer when they ask why they ALL need to learn how to factor polynomials on the same day, for example. School isn’t even about preparing students for life beyond school. It’s about doggedly meeting a set of prescribed, age-based standards determined by people who spent their lives in education, to qualify students for another level of education. If the focus of education were to help students find their WHY, then build the knowledge, skills and character to successfully live their WHY lifelong, schools would be a place students, teachers, parents, business and community partners LOVE! Even very young students career passionately about issues, and unless learning is linked to issues students care about it is unlikely to “stick” for long. Passion, engagement, and grit follow when people discover their WHY. Among issues even elementary students care about are: climate change and greening the planet, threatened animal species, bullying, truth and reconciliation, injustice and unfairness, pollution, safety, law and order, poverty, hunger, homelessness. If you don’t believe me, have a respectful, supportive, encouraging conversation with a five year-old about what issues he or she cares about. Don’t be reluctant to share what you care deeply about. Every child’s WHY will be unique, but the earlier why hear young testing statements like the following the better. “I’m here to ……” Help rid the world of plastics be the best rapper ever alleviate pain and suffering make sure AI is a force for good lead people to God build a happy loving family help the homeless discover worlds beyond earth reduce our carbon footprint discover a cure for cancer make peoples’ last years good ones make art that touches people’ souls When young people begin to discover their WHY unimaginable potential in their adolescent brains is ignited. Truthfully, we need to unleash the potential of adolescent brains to solve the BIG problems we adults are apparently incapable of solving. There are great movements afoot in education to: convince more young people, especially girls, to consider STEM careers enhance social and emotional learning transition to personalized, project-based learning shift from a focus on knowledge to competency acquisition enhance career and labor market information reduce bullying enhance student engagement and achievement engage parents and community partners These are all worthy and highly desirable goals, but they are not WHYs. Even being ale to name an occupation goal (I’m going to be a ….) is not a WHY. It’s a how. As students, teachers and parents become increasingly clear on students’ WHYs all of these goals become exponentially more achievable. Until students discover their WHY, trying to convince them to choose STEM options, digest labor market information, consider the trades, or go to university is no different than recruiting for the Armed Forces, apprenticeships, are trying to convince all youth the need to go to university As young people explore their strengths and their dreams, there WHY will evolve and change. They need every opportunity and unqualified respect, encouragement and support to explore their God-given gifts and aspirations, and develop the skills, competencies, and character traits that will serve them well as they pursue their WHY. Why am I here? I’m here to help young people find their WHY. That’s why I’m so passionate about working with like-minded visionaries to empower students to create a better world. Why are you here?

© 2020 Phil Jarvis.

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