How do you remember your why?

Punxsutawney Phil broke the news to us that winter isn’t over, and the photographs and news stories so far this morning have demonstrated that reality for much of the country.  In my city, the temperature was in the upper 60’s yesterday, yet today there are winter weather advisories for much of the area.  As an educator, spring break may seem years away, you may be in the midst of preparing for enrollment for the next academic year, or perhaps worse, the annual state mandated testing marathon.  How do you remember why you do what you do and who you do it for?  Simon Sinek’s books, edtalks and presentations have brought this idea of “finding your why” to the forefront for leaders, parents, corporations and others.  His website can be found at

We had the opportunity for a great speaker to come and visit with our AVID college prep classes, and she showed the students her “why.”  It was a picture of her and her niece at her graduation from college while her elementary-aged niece held her diploma.  That reminded her why she battled against the odds, why she refused to be a statistic and why she pushed to be a success.  Thanks Shaylynne for sharing your why with our students.

I recently listened to a podcast hosted by Jay Willis entitled “Educators Lead” as he was interviewing business coach and marketing executive, Kris Murray.  She recognized what a tough job it can be for teachers and that we all need refreshing and encouragement from time to time.  She suggested a “Feel Good” Book where we might take the positive emails we get from colleagues, supervisors, parents or students and print them out to place in a book.  Maybe we even put photos of our class or of individual students that we helped get from a rough beginning to a better place.  I like the idea, but I think I would call it my “Why Book,” again focusing on why I do what I do and who I do it for.  You can find more about Jay’s podcasts along with episode 135 with Kris Murray at

I have been blessed to work alongside a wonderful colleague for years who has made me a better educator but an even better person.  Annmarie showed me early on to keep a “DIG” file, a morsel of wisdom passed down from a more seasoned teacher in our building many years ago.  Her DIG file holds artifacts such as news clippings, pictures, notes, certificates, etc., that demonstrate and reinforce, “Dang, I’m good…” and she cracks it open from time to time when encouragement is needed.  She’s made many contributions to my life and file, and I owe her some, so Annmarie, if you read this, go ahead and cram it into your file although I know it’s getting really full!

The job is emotionally and intellectually challenging.  It can even take a physical toll.  Some days we try to survive without coming home with any contagious diseases while maintaining a bit of our sanity and self-worth.  Other days we feel like we’ve hit the winning shot and we can do anything.  When we’re in the midst of winter, either literally or metaphorically, it’s important to remember why we do what we do and who we do it for.  Some of my former AVID students are featured in photos on this blog site because although they’ve left my room, they haven’t left my heart.  Their courage continues to inspire me.  I do it for them and others like them.  So whether you put a picture of your why next to your desk, create a Why Book or a DIG file, stop, take a breath, reflect on those who inspire you and keep on keepin’ on.  The work is too important and they are too important, so just continue to do it — for them.  Your perseverance inspires me as well.

Stay warm this weekend and do it for them!

3 thoughts on “How do you remember your why?

  1. Eric, once more you point out the obvious. Teachers must remember why they do what they do. I advise new teachers to keep a notebook of all the “little” things that bring a smile to their face when they remember. Unfortunately, we tend to forget a lot of what we do. The biggest smile I get today is remembering Oklahoma’s birthday with LOTS of cake in the breezeway between the buildings at Brink. My wonderful STUCO officers- You, Tammy, Dylan- working tirelessly to serve every student in the school. We did have fun. Who was the fourth officer? See, my memory isn’t what it used to be.


    • Wow, you took me back to the archives. I’m going to have to dig out my yearbook to figure it out. You did so many things to make our school a better place and an engaging place. I never realized it. I just took it for granted and I know I shouldn’t have. Thanks so much for being such a great role model before I even knew what one was.


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