The “Why”

January 7, 2013
Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson

It’s energizing to watch schools dive into re-imagining teaching and learning. When a group of people unites around a common vision, the potential for change is huge. But, the best efforts at change go awry or grind to a halt when they become unmoored from any shared purpose – the all important “why” that Simon Sinek speaks to so eloquently.

A school’s shift to 100% project-based learning, for example, can be highly disruptive for all the stakeholders – students, staff, parents, and leadership. Some successes may show up in the beginning, but the mishaps will show up early for sure and sometimes shine brighter than the successes.

Naturally, doubt can creep in to the minds of the various stakeholders when things are not working. Is this the right model for our students? Am I the right teacher for this kind of instruction? Would my daughter be better off with the old way of doing things?

A shared purpose, to which everyone remains connected, provides that North Star that remains highly visible, even when things get messy. It offers the confidence to double-down your efforts rather than water-down your approach. It frames the work to be done. Perhaps most importantly, connection to the purpose produces the motivation to change AND it’s also the elixir for innovation (see the research of Dan Pink and Tony Wagner).

So…does your school’s culture drive a consistent connection to a shared purpose? Is that purpose inspiring your staff, students and community? If things are slipping, would your school benefit from reconnecting with your purpose? As a side note, hopefully, your own personal “why” meshes with the organizational “why”. Otherwise, motivating yourself might be challenging…

Like what Matt has to say? Read more on his blog “Learning from the Cheap Seats!”

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