Fill your educational cup – Start with “why”

Start with “why”

Simon Sinek’s TedTalk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” explores how we buy into an idea, a company, a movement because of the purpose (or the “why”) behind it. Using an example from retail, let’s look at the company Patagonia. Here’s two things I learned about their company:

  1. Their owners travelled around the UK in a campervan with sewing machines, offering to fix any person’s clothes or kit along the way. This action stands for their value of making things last.
  2. On “Black Friday” when most companies are trying to shove sales down our throats, Patagonia started a campaign, asking consumers to NOT buy their products on Black Friday because they are made to last.

So, I seek out Patagonia products because I believe in their “why” of sustainability and making quality products that last. I also have a bit of an obsession with outdoor shops (my favourite one is Transa in Zurich. Outdoor gear heaven! Just take a bottomless credit card!)

Our “why’s” for education.

What does this mean for us, as educators (apart from paying conscious attention to which companies we consume from and why)?!

Well, as lead learners, we can have a “why”. What’s our reason for getting up in the morning? Our purpose? What drives us? Defining this why and staying true to it can have a huge impact on our focus and motivation. When we connect to the impact we are aiming for and our deep values, we can focus our attention on stepping closer to those goals, having the impact and affecting the change we desire. We can focus on filling our educational cup.

For example, my “why” behind Learning Pioneers is to make education more meaningful, purposeful and joyous for the children in its care. 

I knew that, by setting up an international learning community, we could collectively work towards this “why” by learning from and with world educational leaders, sharing discussions and book studies and unpicking how to adapt these ideas in our unique contexts. That way, we could not only collectively work towards more meaningful, purposeful, joyous learning in our classrooms and schools, we could collectively work towards that together, therefore creating a powerful movement towards better education. Call me weird, but this vision gets me out of bed in the morning (as well as a cup of strong coffee!)

The Learning Powered Approach is the perfect driver for this “why”. By fine-tuning and developing my practice in the LPA, I am constantly and consistently working towards that “why” of making learning more purposeful, joyous and meaningful – With the LPA I have a roadmap towards this vision. With Learning Pioneers, we have a crew to collectively walk towards that shared vision, which is even more powerful!

“Alone we are strong, together we are fierce”.

Rebecca Campbell

Based on that “why”, all of my actions, all of my ideas, circle back to and feed into it.

So, for example in the classroom, I might commit to reflecting on my practice to constantly and consistently improve it. What might that look like?

What could this look like in classroom practice?

Here are some examples.

Developing the learning environment.

The learning environment can hugely impact children’s curiosity, joy of learning and their sense of belonging in the classroom (linking, for me, to my “why” of making learning more purposeful, meaningful and joyous). Reggio emilia describes the learning environment as the “Third Teacher” – So, by amplifying it, the learning environment can really be my friend and be the friend of the children too.

I’ve wondered:

What if I committed my year to developing this with the children? 

What would my dream learning environment look, sound and feel like?

Some schools in Learning Pioneers are taking these questions as year-long inquiries with their teams. I can’t wait to see the results and learn from and with other incredible practitioners around the globe.

Here is a brilliant provocation from our interview with Anne van Dam and Kath Murdoch about developing learning environments with children:

Do you pay purposeful attention to developing your learning environment with the children?

What ideas could you take forward from this video?

What Went Well

Our first inquiry in Learning Pioneers always explores the LPA Design Principle, “Making the Classroom a Safe Place to Learn.” Why? Because without this strong foundation of trust, care, connection and safety, we are never going to feel seen, heard or valued or have our basic needs met and we will struggle to gain connection and happiness in the classroom and, ultimately, to learn.

For me, this also relates to making learning more joyous – WIthout care, connection and a sense of well-being, there won’t be much joy in the classroom. And I want my classroom, the children and the learning in it to be filled with joy.

With wellbeing author and expert, Adrian Bethune, we collectively explored how we can develop a deep sense of wellbeing in our classrooms. One idea he shared was to reflect at the end of each day on “What Went Well”. He explains the science and practicalities of this idea in this video:

This is a habit practitioners in Learning Pioneers purposefully developed over time. They reported a huge impact on the positive mindset of their children. I even use it in my personal life – It’s the first thing myself and my husband ask one another when we sit down for dinner. This shifts our mindset from a vicious cycle of “everything is wrong” to a virtuous one of “actually, there’s a huge amount that’s RIGHT.” We’ve both noticed, over time, that by doing this, along with other positive wellbeing habits, we are more resilient and more inclined to focus on the positive (I’ve written a blogpost about developing resilience as an adult here – I actually think it’s the most important blogpost I’ve ever written – because without us being in great shape, the captain of the learning ship, well, let’s say, navigation is going to be tricky!).

What positive habits are you developing for your feeling of safety and wellbeing? For yourself? With your children?

I would love to hear about your “why” and how you live this out in your practice and day-to-day life!

P.S. Our first line of inquiry this year in Learning Pioneers is into “Behaviour Empowerment” . We will invite in Paul Dix and Lindsay Beth-Lyons to answer our questions on how we can develop robust and nurturing behaviour choices with our students.

We hugely respect teachers who invest in their own growth, so are offering a 30% discount to join our community until the end of September. You can join using this link. We can’t wait to welcome you in! Here is one of our teachers, talking about the impact of the Learning Pioneers community:

P.P.S. I am running a FREE retreat for teachers to provide you with the tools to:

  • kindly put boundaries in place
  • approach leaders with grace
  • stick to a robust self-care plan

You can find out more and sign up here. I’d love to meet you and support your growth!


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