What’s the Purpose? And Why Is that Question so Important?

The definition of purpose:

Noun (source: Dictionary.com)

  1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
  2. an intended or desired result; end; aim goal

What’s the purpose of this? For educators, I’m sure this is a question you get asked every day by your students. I remember being that kid, asking that question, especially in Algebra and Geometry classes! What’s the point of this? Why do I have to learn this? How am I ever going to use this in real life? And I can imagine how tiresome that question could be when you hear it over and over again.

Why is that question so important?

But as I look at my work as the Marketing Director for Knovation, I think about how important that question is every day, in big and small ways. On a small scale, we question what the purpose is for any marketing activity or project we take on. Why are we doing this? What is the desired result we expect this program, campaign, ad, email, conference, meeting, etc. to deliver? When you take a few minutes to contemplate the outcomes you’re after, it can definitely help you in defining what you do and how you do it so that you’re not wasting time, energy or money on things that aren’t going to lead to the desired goal.

On a big scale, we sometimes ask ourselves what is the purpose of the career path we’ve chosen? When I get up every day, am I going to work doing something I believe in, something I love, something I feel has a purpose? I can personally answer that question with a definite YES, which is why I’ve spent the past 11+ years working at Knovation. I believe in the company’s mission to serve teachers and students. I believe that the solutions Knovation offers are making a difference in classrooms around the country. Having the answer to that big “Why am I doing this?” question is motivating and can give you the drive to work hard toward realizing that purpose.

Encourage the questioning!

So the next time your students ask you the, “What’s the purpose of this?” question, I hope you can pause for a minute and be proud that you’ve created a learning environment where kids feel comfortable asking that important question. Teaching them the value of asking “WHY?” is an important skill that can help them to be successful and satisfied in their future work.

Notice Everything

How much do we notice as we go through a day? What do our students notice and remember about us and what they learn from us? As we prepare them to be college and career ready, maybe we should consider also our impact on making them consideration and compassion ready.

One Teacher’s Impact

As I reflect on this topic, I’m reminded of a story I heard shared by Lisa Beamer on Good Morning America. Lisa is the wife of Todd Beamer who said, ‘Let’s Roll!’ and helped take down the plane over Pennsylvania that was heading for Washington, DC September 11, 2001.  She said it’s the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him. Lisa recalled this story about a teacher who had a special impact on her own life:

I had a very special teacher in high school many years ago whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there.

With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, ‘Class is over. I would like to share with all of you a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment.’ Her eyes, beginning to water, she went on, ‘So, I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn’t have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Please look for these things and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the “stuff” of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.’

The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school than I had that whole semester. Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.

Take Notice of Something Special Around You Today

Go to the playground and listen to the conversations during play. Eat lunch at the cafeteria with students instead of in the teachers’ lounge. Try a new way of learning something with your kids – help them feel like the experts and see their faces light up. When I look back at my classroom experiences one day, it won’t be the things I did do that I might regret, but the things I didn’t do. Now when I am out in schools, I try to take the time to notice the rooms, the students and the teachers – trying to focus on something good can often act as a moment of meditation in an otherwise crazy day.

When we notice everything (or as much as we can carve out the time to notice), it makes us open to more.  Helping students learn how to make room for these ideas leads them to being compassion driven and consideration focused.  When your students have left, they are less likely to remember the facts that you taught them than they are the way you made them feel about themselves and the world around them.  Ultimately, those are life lessons that will have a huge impact for us all.