Remember when you first decided to become an educator? Why? Why did you make that most important of decisions? I seriously doubt it was on a lark, to make a lot of money or for the “summer’s off.” It’s really worth examining the deeper (and deepest reasons) why we chose to be educators. Whether you are succeeding wildly or stagnating, the initial “why” (the source of all that you do) can be revelatory and game-changing.
Our deepest decisions stem from two sources:
- Connecting with what is fulfilling
- Moving away from deep pain
Of course, these two sources can be very connected.
Here’s a little personal history
When I was a teenager, even though I grew up in an economically comfortable environment and attended private school, I struggled with behavior issues. It wasn’t until years later that I realized I had no mentors, coaches or teachers that I could approach with my difficulties and hurt. Sadly, I have discovered that this is all too common a problem for teenagers – feelings isolation and hopelessness. Needless to say, it was very painful for me. So, the first step was, moving away from that deep pain.
How did I do it? The power of music and arts of course! I finally found my “why” – getting my hands on something that fed and nurtured me. Once I discovered the guitar, jazz, and all the great artists and culture in jazz, a whole new world opened up for me. See, by moving away from deep pain, we can move our lives forward and not dwell on past hurts.
The past becomes a tool for change, not a pool for rage! It’s key to make great decisions here. I see isolated teens and lonely adults choose drugs, sex, body abuse and other damaging behaviors to mask pain, not move away from it. Moving away from deep pain is healthy and is a process, masking pain is a temporary fix. When I turned 40, I realized I was in a position to take the healing from the deep pain and connect it with what is fulfilling. Now, I mentor teens and adults. I transformed that pain into the energy of connecting.
So, what is your “why” of how and what you do? (See the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek)
It’s not enough to share how and what you do. You have to drill down deep and gather your inner energy and examine the very deepest motivations you have. WHY do you do what you do?
Why do this? Simple, because the responsibility to the schools, teachers, families, ourselves and most especially, the children we serve makes us part of a community.
If you haven’t examined why you are an educator at its deepest level, you have a massive mental and spiritual blind spot that could hold you and your community back from thriving.
Rob Levit, an acclaimed musician and artist and 2013 Innovator of the Year from the Maryland Daily Record, has created award-winning innovative “Life-Skills Through The Arts” programs for adults with mental illness, the homeless, adults in drug and alcohol recovery, youth in domestic/sexual abuse counseling, foster children, hospital patients, veterans and many more. He is currently Executive Director of Creating Communities and was the first Artist-In-Residence at Hospice of the Chesapeake, where he created and infused healing activities for the well-being of staff, families and patients. Email Rob.