What is your purpose in life? This is a big question. Even as an adult you may still be figuring it out, but are your students capable of answering this big question themselves? Absolutely. With a little guidance, that is.
A sense of purpose is behind true, intrinsic motivation. Sure, you can motivate your students with Skittles, extra recess, or tickets to buy prizes, but those are short-term solutions. True motivation comes from within. Sadly, “Just some 20 percent of high school kids can be categorized as purposeful, according to Damon’s research; the rest vary between being motivated but lacking a plan, being active but lacking direction, and being neither active nor forward-thinking.”
Fostering skills for the purpose…
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that students who have a high sense of purpose usually also have good social and emotional skills as well. Of course, we aren’t sure which came first, the chicken or the egg, (the skills or the purpose), but just knowing that correlation, along with the impact it can have on students’ motivation, is enough for us to take a closer look at how we can foster a sense of purpose in our students.
How do you define purpose?
Before we look at how we can foster this sense of purpose, let’s define what a sense of purpose is. A sense of purpose must come from within the child. It can’t come from teachers, the child’s parents, the principal, or their friends. A child finds their purpose through what matters to them. To be truly motivating, a child’s purpose must be important to them. They must decide what they want to be in life and how they want to contribute to the world. Of course, parents, teachers, and mentors can help connect the dots between how what they do today (ie. math class) will lead to future success in their area of interest (ie. becoming an astronaut) but the purpose is all their own. Making the Effort towards their goals comes from their sense of purpose and passion!
… a child finds their purpose through what matters to them!
It all starts with YOU
Aspiring to foster a sense of purpose in our students is a daunting task, but still a possible one. While this isn’t something that can be forced, it is something that can be encouraged. But how?
Be sure your students know that there are no limits to their dreams. They can accomplish much more than they may think they can. Encourage them to dream big. The bigger the dream, the better! It’s important at the end of the day your child or student feels they have the capacity to explore their passions and purpose. How can you help make this a reality for them?
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
Flanagan, Linda. “How Parents Can Help Kids Develop A Sense Of Purpose.” KQED, 18 May 2017, www.kqed.org/mindshift/48013/how-parents-can-help-kids-develop-a-sense-of-purpose.
Damon, William. “How Can We Encourage a Sense of Purpose and Meaning Early in Life?” BQO, 20 Jan. 2016, www.bigquestionsonline.com/2014/12/09/how-can-encourage-sense-purpose-meaning-early-life/.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.