Finding Purpose in Education (June 9)

My name is Moss Pike, and I teach Latin at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. I’m excited to host a #slowchatED discussion on finding purpose within education the week of June 9, since it’s a topic I’ve become very invested over the course of this past year. Our school is on the verge of making some potentially big changes, based on a quite thorough “Workload Study” we recently completed with all of our students, and purpose has been one of the more salient talking points in the discussion. In thinking about how to design more engaging classroom experiences for my students and more engaging PD opportunities for faculty, as well as considering reworking our school mission, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about purpose, focusing on the question of why do we do what we do.

Alongside autonomy and mastery, purpose is one of Dan Pink’s three essential requirements for intrinsic motivation, which he outlines in his fantastic book Drive (cf. some of my thoughts on the book). Pink (2011:137) points out that we don’t often enough ask “Why?” in the workplace, and I think the same is true within the classroom and at schools in general. Now that we’re starting to understand the value of the so-called “non-cognitive” or “soft” skills like creativity and empathy that play a central role in engagement and happiness, it’s the perfect time to call more attention to purpose and think hard about this question, as we’re pushing change in our schools.

When I learned about Aaron Hurst‘s new book The Purpose Economy, I couldn’t wait to read it and see what he had to say on this idea. It’s an excellent book to add to the list of “books not about education that have everything to do about education,” and if anyone is looking for something to inspire deep thinking about important ideas, I highly suggest picking it up (cf my notes on it). In the book, Hurst (2014:18) makes it clear that his idea of purpose goes beyond service, thinking of it within the following framework:

“When I say purpose, I mean more than serving others and the planet. Service is certainly at the core, but in speaking with hundreds of professionals and reading thousands of essays, I’ve discovered that there are two other key sources of purpose people seek: a sense of community and the opportunity for self-expression and personal growth. In other words, they pursue personal, social and societal purpose.”

That said, the book (cf. also Hurst’s blog) have served as the inspiration for me to have a wider discussion on the topic, with the hope that we can bring together a number of diverse ideas on purpose and start to answer the question “Why?” for both ourselves and our greater communities. “Much like technology a few decades ago, purpose has now become a business imperative,” Hurst (2014:21) claims, and in my opinion, purpose should also be an educational imperative. If interested in discussing more on the book itself, by the way, share any thoughts or questions in our EduRead G+ community and/or use the hashtag #eduread14 on Twitter.

So to this end, we’ll discuss the questions below next week using the hashtag #slowchatED on Twitter, beginning with Q1 on Monday, June 9, followed by a new question each subsequent day of the week. All are welcome to participate throughout the week, whether it’s just for one question or for the duration of the discussion. As always, there are no wrong answers in a discussion like this, and I’m excited to see what ideas we can come up with together.

Suggested Reading

There’s no need to read The Purpose Economy for our #slowchatED discussion (though you certainly should at some point!), but it may be helpful to read through a couple good blog posts on the idea:

Questions

Q1 Why is purpose important? What does it do for us as community members?
Q2a Define what purpose means to you as an educator, sharing examples. What is your own personal purpose?
Q2b Define what purpose means to you as colleague, sharing examples. What is your societal and social purpose?
Q3 What are some myths or misconceptions about purpose? Why isn’t purpose often pursued?
Q4 How can we find, celebrate, and sustain our purpose as educators?
Q5 Why is finding purpose more important than ever for students? How do we help them find it?
Q6 Share a purpose project you intend to work on in the next academic year.

N.B.: This post is duplicated in my personal blog.

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