Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What Drives You?

In education, I think the driving force that compels us to join the profession is the innate desire to instill a love for learning among students and to help place them on a path to success.  There is nothing more exhilarating than seeing, or knowing, firsthand that you played a small part in a student’s evolution over the years.  Foremost is the desire to work with kids. Putting in countless hours developing lessons, grading, providing feedback, observing teachers, providing professional growth activities, constructing a master schedule, formulating a budget, attending events, and writing letters of recommendation are just a few of the myriad of tasks that educators across an array of positions engage in every day.  All of this is done with a single purpose in mind – student learning, achievement, and success.  What other professional position allows for the opportunity each and every day to positively impact the life of a child?

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The above paragraph describes what I feel is the main reason each of us has chosen to pursue a career in education.  It is not about the big payday, accolades, glitz, or glamour.  If that was the case I think we can all agree that we would have chosen any other field except education.  There are, however, a select group of individuals and organizations comprising the majority of the education reform movement that do, in fact, feel that we are overpaid, underworked, and pampered with lavish packages after retirement.  To pour salt on an open wound, ideas are concocted in regards to how we should be evaluated with not a shred of research to back up these initiatives.  The fact of the matter remains that we are the ones who decided to pursue a career working with students while many others either shunned or made fun of our decision.  Now it is these people, the same ones that wanted nothing to do with the education profession, that are trying to dictate every facet of what we do.

The recent education reform movement provides an endless barrage of insults to the noble work we do everyday.  It has perpetuated schools as testing factories, something many of us have always dreaded.  While our driving force is to ignite students’ passion for learning, the relentless focus on standardized testing data is doing little to prepare our students for success in the real word.  Sorry, but that is fact, at least in my eyes.  This then leads to my final point and that is how schools are structured.  In an age where we have what seems like an endless array of tools to engage, enhance learning, and assess in a variety of ways, the majority of schools seem either content or fearful of breaking free from the industrialized model of education that has entrenched our system for over a hundred years.  Schools need to work for students as opposed to the status quo or us.  In a world now dominated with all forms of technology, our mission should be to find natural pedagogical fits.  There is no longer an excuse for creating a system that is the exact opposite of the real world.  This in itself is just as bad as the education reform efforts described previously.  

So what really drives me as an educator today?  My goal is to collaboratively create a culture of teaching and learning that resonates with my students.  Where I once feared giving up control and trusting students, I now relish the opportunity to do this each and every day.  Through the many successful initiatives where change has been sustained, our students have ultimately benefited.  With each passing day, seeing and observing the fruits of our labor in the form of students exhibiting a growing appreciation for the culture that we are creating together brings a smile to my face.  This is what drives me: making learning more about them than everyone else.

So what drives you? 


  1. Mr. Sheninger,
    My favorite line from the above post is, "our mission should be to find natural pedagogical fits."
    I have been in education for nine years (3 districts ranging from urban to suburban) and only in the past two years have I started my own personal shifts in regards to pedagogy.
    What drives me?
    On top of wearing the hat of a teacher I am also a coach (football/wrestling/track). Early on in my career I was driven by the end products of my athletes. For example, watching a football play perfectly executed by eleven different athletes was a work of art. Subconsciously, I also knew there were another eleven to twenty players who also helped prepare that play behind the schemes. Win, lose or draw, the maximized efforts of the student-athletes drove me to continue to design new schemes to both motivate and invigorate my players. Enter "natural pedagogical fits...."
    What I did not realize early on in my career was that I implemented similar characteristics and strategies in the classroom. After self-reflection, collaboration with open minded peers and a continued personal drive to grow, I believe the feeling of "empowerment," or "empowering others," drives me. My tailored definition of empowerment/to empower would be the ability to build up individuals we are in constant interaction with. Engage in conversations that question, help mold deep understandings and ultimately allow our students/peers to feel that same feeling. My drive is heighten when I watch others become empowered, take risks, and learn from experiences. Simple "A-ha" moments provide individuals with the tools to exponentially impact current and future relationships.
    Thank you for the post and have a great rest of the week.
    Joshua Zagorski
    Middle School Math Teacher

  2. Josh - thank you for taking the time to read this piece. Empowerment as you describe is one of the most compelling forces that drives anyone regardless of position to develop a passion for what they do.

  3. I think you captured it! What drives me is the fact that we all KNOW better in terms of what needs to happen to transform (I hate the word "reform".) our schools but often times there is a lack of a collective will to do so. Every day I try to share information and coach our teachers in what we should be doing and how we should go about doing it. Pockets of success can lead to meaningful transformation in our schools but unfortunately it often takes so much time that the system (or individual) can lose it's steam before it has a chance to have a meaningful impact.