Most ‘how to’ websites and articles advise TPS writers to begin by answering a collection of questions designed to help them to verbalize what they do and the thinking that underlies the choices they make. Often such questions are grouped into categories that can be used to develop an organizing structure for the TPS. In this course we’re going to take a step back to think first about the essential question of why we teach and then put words to the big idea(s) which guide our work
Simon Sinek: Start with Why (excerpted from a longer TED Talk; also available the complete version with subscripts)
In the blog, Three Teachers Talk, Amy Rassmussen writes about how educators, like the business leaders described by Sinek, tend to be stuck in ‘what, how, why’’ thinking. Sometimes we don’t even get to ‘why’. “I do not know a teacher who does not want to inspire students …. but we “focus on the WHAT and the HOW – like making learning relevant, engaging our students, teaching them grit, focusing on achievement …. instead of WHY we teach our students in the first place. … To inspire lasting change, we must start with WHY.” >To make her point, Rasmussen gives us what could be an educator’s version of Sinek’s ‘business as usual’ example:
- “We teach high school.
- Our school culture is spirited and sound. Our curriculum is rich. Our test scores are high.
- Wanna come here?”
She then contrasts that to what happens when the conventional way of thinking is turned inside out:
- “Everything we do, we believe in challenging our students’ thinking. We believe in genuine and individual inquiry.the WHY
- The way we challenge our students is by making our school safe and innovative with … knowledgeable teachers who are … compassionate [and] cater to the needs of all students.the HOW
- We happen to graduate honorable and educated citizens. the WHAT, i.e. the results] Wanna come here?”
Finding your ‘WHY’ can give you the big or unifying idea for your TPS, but it doesn't always come easily. As you’ll read in this story by one biology grad student trying to write a TPS, the struggle can yield wonderful results.