Why You Must Remind Students Of Their Purpose

Why You Must Remind Students Of Their PurposeIf not reminded, and reminded often, your students will naturally slip into believing that school is just something they’re supposed to do.

They never consider that school doesn’t need them, individually anyway, but that they need school.

So many students approach their education as if it were the other way around, as if their school is lucky they showed up on time.

This attitude can cause students to take their education for granted, to see it as a grind, as something they’re forced to do rather than what it is:

An opportunity of a lifetime.

Doing anything begrudgingly, anything with the specter of having to do it hanging over your head, can be a dangerous thing. Because it saps vital energy, creativity, and motivation. It makes students feel as if school is being done to them, rather than for them.

So they walk into your classroom like they’re heading for the salt mines—reluctant, sleepy-eyed, resigned to their fate.

When students lose track of its wonderful benefits, they begin seeing school as a negative, as something to endure, and if all possible, avoid.

So they goof off when they get a chance. They shutter their mind to learning. They attend to their daydreams, distractions, and the enticing call of misbehavior.

Your words, then, carry little significance, urgency, or interest to them. The colors of the classroom turn muted. They melt into their seats. The idea of personal responsibility is no more than a vague concept.

Worst of all, they develop a growing sense of entitlement.

Of course, if you’re a regular reader of this website, then you know that when students like you and trust you and enjoy being a member of your classroom, everything becomes easier—from motivation to listening to rapport-building to managing behavior.

But along with this powerful force is the importance of ensuring that your students never lose track of why they come to school.

It is the ‘why’ of school, after all, that cracks ajar the gates of learning. It is the ‘why’ that provides the initial spark of motivation that unlocks hearts and minds, giving you the opening you need to grab your students by the lapels and pull them in.

It is the ‘why’ that enables students to feel the first ounce of responsibility upon their shoulders. It is the ‘why’ that points out the truth to the expression, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” It is the ‘why’ that makes them realize that they need school.

So how do you do it? How do you get the message across?

You tell them. You tell them every day why they’re there, why what they’re doing is important, and why what you have to offer them is a most precious gift.

Good morning room three! Welcome to another beautiful day of learning. It’s my job to give you the best education you can get anywhere, and I plan on doing just that today. But it’s your job to think, read, listen, participate, and give the very best of yourself and your proud family name, so you can take advantage of the many opportunities that good education provides . . .”

Coming from someone your students like and admire, and delivered with passion, this simple message—which will vary in depth depending on grade level—can be powerful and deeply impressionable.

It puts their day-to-day, to-and-from school existence into perspective, infusing it with purpose and direction and underscoring the worthiness of learning’s pursuit.

It causes students to see beyond their current place in the world, no matter how challenging or difficult, and into a high-def technicolor vision of their future.

It alters their view, wakes them of their unrealistic fantasies, and places upon their heart a true path to their hopes and aspirations.

It sets ablaze the desire to not just accept the gift of their education . . .

But to reach out and take it.

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13 Responses to Why You Must Remind Students Of Their Purpose

  1. Christine July 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Awesome, I love it!

    • Michael Linsin July 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

      Thanks Christine!


  2. Howard greenberg July 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

    I would like to as some questions that I would like to not appear on the web site. I have been a teacher for several years and have struggled with classroom management.

    Please email me regarding how to do this.


    • Michael Linsin July 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Howard,

      To suggest a topic, email me. I’m happy to put it on the list.


  3. Patrick MacGibbon July 6, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    It has an even greater effect if you say it while standing on your desk… like Robin Williams.

  4. Dolores July 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Thank you for the article. It was inspiring for me. I am planning on using with my 4th graders starting tomorrow as I work at a year-round school and it will be their first day of a new school year. I also sent it to my brother who teaches at the college level and can’t understand why so many students take their parents money for an education that they are not sure why they are even in school or if they want to be or at least they act like it. When the cost of an education has to come out of your own pocket you take pride in your education. Very inspiring and I hope I can get the message to my students before they reach the college level. It also reminds me why I do what I do everyday. Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin July 7, 2014 at 6:07 am #

      You’re welcome, Dolores! I’m glad you liked it.


  5. Patrick MacGibbon July 7, 2014 at 7:12 am #

    I’m also going to use this idea in my class when we reconvene in the fall… I think it has a particularly unique application to a course like high school music (or any other performance based course) because it’s really easy to get side tracked by the desire to win at festivals/competitions, or wrapped up in the feeling that you need to impress others. Of course, that’s true for the teacher as well as the students, so I agree with Delores that it’s a good reminder of why we do what we do everyday.

    Thanks again, Michael.

    • Michael Linsin July 7, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      You’re welcome, Patrick. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  6. Martha March 30, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    How do I address it directly when students are negative? Example: when the students read memoirs in class, we want them to feel open to responding, but a lot of the initial response is “that sucked.” or “that was a waste of my 10 minutes…” Is there a way to address negativity without squishing their opinions or voices?

    • Michael Linsin March 30, 2015 at 11:08 am #

      Hi Martha,

      Good question, but bigger than I have time to address here. I’ll be sure to put it on the list of future articles. I think it will make a good topic that others may benefit from.