The Teaching Manifesto

As you tie up loose ends before holiday break, I encourage you to think about what the New Year will bring for you and for your students. How can you set a goal beyond a New Year’s resolution that will have a great impact on your life’s work?

A colleague recently shared a Ted Talk with me, saying it was really worth the view. Before I got the chance to watch it on my own, a professor shared the same video in my communications course. With such high praise, I knew it would contain a significant pearl of wisdom. In the video, author and researcher Simon Sinek addresses “how great leaders inspire action”. Sinek discusses the success of Apple, the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and great inventors who changed the course of history forever. Maybe you’ve seen it already, as it currently has over 20 million views, but if not, you can watch it here.

As a teacher, you may not think of yourself to be in the company of Apple, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or the Wright brothers. But you most certainly are! Every single day when you get up and go to school, you have many young minds to teach, lead, and inspire. The old adage stands true that you will never fully know the ripple of the impact that you will have on the world through all those you teach.

Sinek explains that the success of these great leaders lies in the following notion: People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe. The idea can be expanded this way: people “buy into” what you do, or follow you, when they know you are doing something you really believe in.

Let me ask you a couple of questions. Why do you teach? What do you believe about your purpose as an educator? How do you renew your passion for shaping minds daily? Most importantly: do your students, their parents, and your colleagues know for certain what you believe about what you do?

I’d like to turn you to an example outside of the schooling world. Lululemon Athletica is a fitness clothing company heavily invested in community health and education. Their brand is rooted in “the Lululemon manifesto” and you can see it everywhere. It is printed on their clothing, and they are famous for their reusable red bags printed with its positivity. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

  • Life is full of setbacks. Success is determined by how you handle setbacks.
  • Do one thing a day that scares you.
  • Creativity is maximized when you are living in the moment.
  • Effectiveness is predicated by replacing the words “wish”, “should”, and “try” with “I will”.
  • The conscious brain can only hold one thought at a time. Choose a positive thought.
  • This is not your practice life. This is all there is.
  • The world moves at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you two steps behind. Do it now, do it now, do it now!

Every time I see it, I’m inspired. It’s simple, and many of the ideas aren’t new. But I know exactly what this company believes when I go to purchase a jacket or a yoga mat, and I think about it every time I use them.

Do your students know what you believe every time they step into your classroom? Are they inspired every time they hear your messages? Do they think of how you empowered them when they use the skills they’ve learned from you? This New Year, I encourage you to write your own “teaching manifesto” and to share it with your students and parents. I think you’ll be surprised by how much impact it will have on your relationships with those around you and on your approach to teaching.

You can inspire your students through this exercise and, I’m willing to bet, also inspire yourself.