“Why?”  What a powerful yet underrated question.  A three letter word that has the capacity to completely transform our lives.  It digs deep into our hearts to not only ask how or what we are doing, but it asks why we do it.  It drives our purpose, and the anticipation for an authentic response. When we ask ourselves “why?” we are essentially asking ourselves what is our truth behind what it is that we are doing, and do we even believe in it ourselves.   Simon Sinek (2009) tells us people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it.  We can dream of having the best schools, best curriculum, and the best teachers in the world, but if we do not clarify our why, or don’t have one at all, then learning will remain mediocre.  Our why does not have to be complicated, but it has to be authentic and meaningful. We have the capacity to inspire and be inspired, to dream and connect with one another’s dreams.  Having a clear why helps us connect with another’s why.  Education is happening all around us, we just have to open our minds to notice.  Education is not confined within the walls of a school building. This is why schools cannot simply exist to educate children.  Children are like little sponges that naturally soak up our patterns of behavior and little nuances.  We are all born with a curiosity to learn and engage in the world around us, so it is important that we get back to the heart of the matter and ask ourselves, “why?”  

Why do we teach?  We teach to set people free.  Education is about liberty. I want to help guide people to discover a stirring within themselves that drives them to curiosity.  I want that curiosity to motivate them to explore not only their wildest dreams, but connect those dreams to others around the world.  I believe that when we step out of our comfort zone and take notice of the world around us, in all of its rich culture, thought provoking beliefs, and natural beauty, it makes us feel small in the best way. Education sets people free to create, inspire, fight injustice, and lead. It cultivates courage to lead others to hope, and positively revolutionize our world. What does this mean for our schools? Our schools could be the catalyst that revolutionizes our future society.  Our students will learn regardless, sometimes for better or for worse. So how can we create a school environment that focuses on engaging our students for the better? Students are fully capable to dream as big as their hearts desire, so it is our job as educators to create a significant learning environment where that happens.  Classrooms are full of such creative and inquisitive minds that are practically bursting at the seams, therefore it is time that school becomes more like an adventure to set their minds free.

This winter I set out on a new adventure of my own. After two years of researching online, I enrolled in a Master’s Degree program at Lamar University.  This program is called Master’s of Education in Digital Learning and Leading.  The goal of this program is to prepare educators to be the innovative change within their organizations and the education system.  

In the past five weeks of being enrolled in this program, I must say that it has truly been transformative not only in the way I teach, but the way I now view my future.  Although I have always been a firm believer to not let fear dictate my desire to venture out and try new things, the collaboration with my fellow cohort and exposure to the program’s resources have further validated my inner belief about failing forward.  I’ve learned how to stretch myself beyond what I previously had thought was possible. I have had to rethink how I learn, and how to give myself grace when I struggle. I’m learning how to better use digital platforms, and applying the growth mindset voice when the frustrating moments arise.  I have adopted the word “yet” into my vocabulary so deeply that it is now ingrained in my students, and when I forget, they quickly remind me. Yet gives me hope. It allows me to value the process, and understand that it is all about the learning.

I enjoy teaching, partially because of my love for learning, but also because I believe my purpose in life is to leave others better than I found them.  I love people. One of my favorite authors, Bob Goff (2018) asks it simply, “how can we become love in a world full of setbacks and difficult people?” I find an immense amount of inspiration by contemplating on what love is, and what that means when we live it out.  I believe that teachers are examples of a living love. I also believe that education and the love for people are intertwined. Love is at the heart of why we educate. With this in mind, I never knew that there were any other options to lead or advance this belief in this field besides becoming a principal or an administrator. However, I have observed them doing their jobs, and they don’t seem to truly enjoy what they do. The spark to once lead and inspire seemed to fade among their amount of stress and never-ending policy constraints.  I was disheartened to think that there may not be another path for me until I discovered this program.

Until about two years ago, I never thought I would go back to school to earn a master’s degree, let alone in education.  I may be slightly bitter about the cost of education these days. However, after a particularly difficult and exhausting year, I decided that it was time to break my own cycle.  I was tired of complaining about all that was wrong with education, and actually make a move to do something about it. I remember thinking, “if not me, then who? If not me, then why?”  After extensive research on finding a program that was affordable, online, and aligned with the goals I loosely had in mind, I found the Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar.  I was searching for a program that would give me the tools to refine those goals, and remind me of why I became a teacher in the first place. I desperately needed inspiration, and a place to collaborate with others who discovered the same spark to make innovative changes within our education system.  I have found that inspiration that I was seeking.  Below is a list of work that I have completed within the first course, Concepts of Educational Technology.

Impact of a Growth Mindset

Learning Manifesto

Professional Learning Networks

I have learned so much about myself in the past five weeks.  I have learned how to learn, and why I learn. I have been challenged to not only engage with deeper concepts, but have been given the opportunity to showcase my learning through the COVA approach.  I have learned how important choice, ownership, and voice are to authentic learning. Because I am able to engage in learning in this capacity, I can then guide my students in the same way. Education is not meant for regurgitating information.  Education is about setting students free. That is why I do what I do. I want to set my students free.

References:

Sinek, S. (September 28, 2009). “Start with why — how great leaders inspire action.” Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA

Goff, B. (2018). Everybody always. Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books.

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