Sunday, March 24, 2013

#Slice 2013: 24 of 31- Knowing the Why for What I Do...

During the month of March, I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted at All month, I have been impressed with the great writing that bloggers are doing. Feel free to check out some of the links and comment!

My husband and I had an overnight in New York this weekend and I want to thank Katherine Sokolowski for encouraging nerdy behavior because we listened to Ted Talks on the way in and out of the city. We listened to a few, but Simon Senek's talk about how leaders inspire action resonated with me and kept my husband and me discussing and debating after the talk ended.

In this talk, Simon Sinek talks about several famous leaders and innovators and the idea that they lead with what they believe, not with what they do. Simon describes a circle that dictates action and consists of what we do, how we do it, but most importantly, why we do it. His message is that we generally know what we are doing and how to do it, but don't spend enough time thinking about why we do it. One of the most memorable parts of his talk was when he reminded us that Martin Luther King's speech was "I Have a Dream" and not "I have a plan."

What struck me is that many of us in education have plans that guide what we will do but not visions that are defined by why we will do it. The Common Core State Standards are guiding the practices of many educators in this country. These standards dictate what students should know and be able to do by the time they graduate and so we, in both of the districts that I know well, are working hard to figure out how to make sure this happens. I admit that I am right there at the forefront of that work.

 Simon Sinek's talk made me stop and think about the "why" behind my work. Have I paid enough attention to the reasons for the Standards and how those reasons intersect and integrate with my beliefs about education? Am I able to state my "why" as easily as I state my "what" and my "how"?

Here are some of my guiding beliefs:
  • All children have a right to a meaningful education.
  • Curiosity and passion lead to engagement which leads to mastery and achievement.
  • People learn from each other and ideas and innovations develop out of collaboration and reflection.
  • Relationships matter across all ages and stages of humanity.
I need to keep thinking about my beliefs because I'm certain that I'm missing something important. It's important to me that the "why" dictates the "whats" and the "hows" of my daily practice. And, I do think that they intersect and integrate with the work that I am doing not only around the CCSS, but also around my vision of a graduate. I do want to keep thinking about this, though.

If you have time while you're folding laundry or driving, TedTalks are amazing for thinking and learning. If you have some favorite talks, please share them!

Enjoy your Sunday,


  1. Melanie, I love the way you connected Sinek's talk to our work as educators trying to make sense of the CCSS. I think your guiding beliefs are absolutely right. Thank you for sharing your thinking and insights! (Hope you and your husband had a great time in the city!)

  2. Favorite TED talks:

    As for the "why?" In our's the anchor, right, the part that steadies our ship? You are so right to say that this is something we need to remind ourselves of.

    1. Thanks Tara! I have seen Kakenya and Sir Ken Robinson, but not the first one you listed. I'll listen tomorrow!

  3. First, I will go back & read your book club info tomorrow. It's been a nutty day & I want to spend some quality time with it before responding. Thanks for the detail!
    As for the Ted talks, I have a former colleague whom I'm so proud of because she has done a Ted talk about her mission, the 'why' of what she's now doing. She & her husband run a restaurant here in Denver whose mission is to serve good nourishing food to anyone who comes to eat. There are no prices, one pays what one can. It's called the SAME Cafe (So All May Eat). You can find them online, web page & Facebook. I don't seem to have time to watch often, but I do watch when someone shares, like yours today. It sounds so thoughtful, yet provocative too. I could talk a very long while about the "why" of what I do, & it is wrapped up with my own children's experiences in school & my passion for gifted education. You write such thoughtful posts, Melanie. Thank you!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Just making sure that you realize that there are two Melanies and we write this blog together. Writing one post a day has been plenty for me--Melanie Swider has been writing too, but she did not take the challenge--only I'm the crazy one!

  4. Just bookmarked your post to reread it during spring break as well as listen to the TED talk. Thank you for making me think about the "whys" of my teaching.

  5. Love that you embraced your nerdy behavior. :) And I adore Ted Talks. My two favorites of late are:

    Jarrett Krosoczka (Lunch Lady graphic novels)

    Amanda Palmer (singer. Married to Neil Gaiman)

  6. Thanks for sharing your thinking and this Ted Talk. Can't wait to listen to it! :)