By Mark Heintz
Aug 13, 2019

Why am I teaching?

I think the last time I was forced to answer this question was during my job interview in 2006. That’s not to say I haven’t answered it.  Just ask the people I work with. They will tell you I bring it up. Maybe too much…

The Blog

I haven’t used the blog to state what I’m doing in the profession, which is truly a missed opportunity to share that with my students and their guardians. By making my “why” public, I could have students share their thoughts on school and help me grow as an educator. Also, any time I have to make a decision, I should reference my “why” in order to keep the larger mission in mind.  I think the answer to the “Why am I teaching” should/could/must drive every decision we make as educators. If not, we often bend to or swayed by the latest fad in education. I have bent and swayed enough over the past thirteen years of my career. Because of that, I need to codify my mission to drive those decisions I make every day. 

On Mission Statements 

I recently read Will Richardson’s post on developing mission statements, in which he references Grant Wiggins’ thoughts on the same topic.  Over at Modern Learners, they created a beautiful infographic that summarizes the need for a mission statement. 

In my last post, I grappled with how can I create conditions for students to follow their interests and still be successful on the AP exam. My hope is to create those conditions that allow students to develop as learners and at the same time, develop a course that has the flexibility to let them pursue their interests, give them the ability to make choices about how they learn best and expand their curiosity while still allowing students to excel on the AP examination.  Therefore, an education, in my context, in my classroom, is meant to help the students know how they learn and to improve as a learner.  

As teachers, we teach our lessons really well. And, that is the problem.  We do the thinking for them.  We create the questions, we scaffold, and we provide feedback for them to learn.  As George Courus affirms, 

“the reality is that the experiences we create often make students depended upon the teacher for learning.” 

Ultimately, I want to have students direct their learning, ask their questions, understand what help they need, and ask for help when they need it. If a student could do that at the end of the year, I would be beyond happy.  Therefore, my mission is to develop learners; people who: 

  • can learn anytime, anywhere
  • find problems they are interested in 
  • connect to resources to solve their problems
  • curate their learning for accessibility
  • set goals and monitor progress
  • advocate for their needs
  • want to learn more

I sat with this for a while. I wrote a longer mission statement; but, I kept editing it down.  People need to know how to learn, and that is going to mean different things for everyone. In the past, I would have said that I did this, but I couldn’t provide any evidence… other than standardized tests… 

I know students learn a lot on their own. But, as I watch my own sons (4 and 2) develop, they do everything in the list above naturally.  By the time a student gets to me, the system seems to chip away at those traits. I want for my students to build upon those skills in my class; therefore,  my mission is to develop learners.





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