In New York in September 2015, 193 member countries of the United Nations General Assembly ratified a vision for a brighter future; the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
In essence, the 17 SDGs constitute humanity’s consensus for how we hope to develop as a species over the next decade.
The SDG’s include the eradication of global poverty and hunger, and reduced inequality.
If this is what we, as collective humans, have determined is our desired future, surely there is no clearer purpose of education than to equip young people with the skills and knowledge to help us move towards these goals.
If we are not educating to shape a better world, what are we doing?
If I walked into a random classroom at your school and asked a random student: “This thing you’re learning right now, why are you learning it?”, would they have a good answer? And what if we disallowed the following answers: “Because it’s on the test.” and “Because my teacher told me to.”? Would the student be able to clearly articulate the underlying value and purpose of the lesson?
Learning driven by a deep sense of real-world meaning and powered by curiosity, hope and intrinsic motivation is so powerful. Yet, there are still many lessons being delivered that are void of this sense of meaning and driven, instead, by some form of external motivator (eg stickers, tokens, money, grades, fear, etc).
The best educators always ensure the ‘why‘ is strong – at the heart of their classroom – even in very young students. The ‘why‘ is the source-code of inspiration and the fuel of long-term passion and perseverance.
The ‘why‘ makes learning matter.
I am yet to meet a quality educator anywhere in the world, who decided to become a teacher for the fame and fortune or because they thought it would be a cruisy way to earn a buck.
Despite the fact that we knew it would be hard work, with long hours, high levels of stress, and relatively low pay and prestige, we chose it anyway. We all had our own different reasons for choosing this work – but we had a reason – a why.
Unfortunately, it is easy for that reason, that why, to get clouded by the day to day stress and needs of the job. And before we know it, we can lose track of it altogether.
When that happens (and it does happen), it’s critical to take time out to reconnect with that deep purpose so that it can drive our goals, decisions and behaviour. Or perhaps it’s time to consider another a different job.