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Food for thought

What is your purpose?

By November 4, 2018No Comments

In all of the 700+ blog posts I’ve written, on this site or ghostwritten or published elsewhere have I ever discussed why I do what I do.

I got into teaching because I wanted to make a difference.

As a youngster, I used to deliver badge classes in my local Boys’ Brigade unit and helping in that way was a catalyst for me to see that I could make a difference in the world. I won’t lie, I got a lot of satisfaction from seeing lightbulb moments arise in the young people I was working with and it is absolutely what led to me wanting to become a teacher.

My career as a teacher had its ups and downs like that of many a teacher. The education landscape today is very different from that which I joined back all those years ago, but I still wanted to make that difference. It is that ideal that still drives me today in what I do and I still see myself as a teacher, despite no longer having any classes to teach.

Wherever I have worked, despite the differences in opinion about how we teach or the approaches we take in the classroom, I am yet to meet a teacher who got into teaching to make the lives of children worse.

Sure, there are people who use their career as a platform to travel or to share their love of their subject… we all have days too when some children we work with provide us significant challenges in their behaviour or their circumstances which make us restless of an evening, worrying about what those children might be experiencing that night at home. We as educators though can still be that rock for that child. Our purpose remains the same.

Yes, good behaviour should be an expectation and I understand and empathise with the whole ‘no excuses’ approach to behaviour management in schools. Whilst it might not be completely my cup of tea, I know that we all still have that shared goal, that common purpose of doing what we can to help the children in our care do well in their lives.

Whether you are a trad or a prog or a trog or a prad it doesn’t really matter. Whilst we may have our differences of opinion; differences which at times can lead to heated debates and full-blown rants, our focus is still the same. We want to make a difference.

When I first started teaching I didn’t have any aspirations to get into leadership. I just wanted to work with the children in front of me. Helping them each day. Meeting them at my classroom door. Making those connections. Finding out about their day or their weekend or how life was for them. The role of the form tutor was one which I found to be probably the most rewarding part of my teaching career and one of the things I miss the most now and certainly missed when I moved into leadership.

Despite not initially having aspirations for leadership, as I grew in my career I realised that by taking on a middle leadership role I could make a bigger difference than that which I could make purely in my own classroom.  The same was true when I moved into senior leadership.

When I was inspired by Tim Rylands and Andy Hutt to start my own blogging journey and I started getting attention through social media and the sharing I was doing, again I realised I could help schools and children far outside the remit of my own classroom. I will always remember the first time somebody shared a photograph of a resource I had made on the wall of a school in New York.

All of this though still resonated with my original purpose – that I wanted to make a difference and to help young people.

In the last few years, however, particularly around the huge exodus of teachers leaving the profession, I get asked similar questions… I get asked things like:

  • How can I get more followers?
  • How can I do a job like yours?
  • How do I start a blog?
  • Why do you get asked to speak at events?
  • How do you get a book contract?

To anyone who asks me those questions, I tell them to keep doing what they are doing. Sure I have helped numerous people start with their blogging or with books, but I didn’t get to be doing what I am doing now because I sat down x years ago and thought, “how can I get out of the profession?”. I am in the place I am in now because of the work I did, the sharing I do and the passion I have as my core purpose.

I remember vividly a conversation with a colleague of mine who suggested in the first place that I look to do what I do now. It was in fact in large part, their idea that I look to do what I do now. I didn’t think I would be able to make a go of it, in fact, because I love teaching so much, I was very reluctant to leave the classroom. Looking back, as he said to me himself very recently, it “seems pathetic now all those conversations about will it work!”.

So what if you are looking to leave the profession? Well if you are, then that is something you have to answer for yourself. If however, you are seeking to do what I do and to make a success of it, then remember your purpose. Why did you become a teacher in the first place? If teaching isn’t for you, then sure, we all make mistakes. We don’t all love the profession as I do. Go and find your purpose. If like me though you do love it and find that you have an opportunity to make an impact on a larger scale, then do it, whether that’s moving into leadership or even stepping out on your own to share in ways similar to how I do, but never forget your roots… your core purpose.

Thank you for reading this blog post. As you can probably tell, it is quite personal, but sometimes if it isn’t personal, then what’s the point?

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.

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