Steve Schertzer

The purpose driven teacher

Self motivation and the teacher's heart

"I believe that God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. Not to run would be to hold God in contempt."

---- Eric Liddle, 1901--1945. Gold Medal winner at the 1924 Olympic games in Paris and the subject of the film "Chariots of Fire."

On my way back to Korea on August 19th after visiting my family for a month, I turned my 'personal entertainment system' as Air Canada likes to call it to the movie section. After passing through mindless movies starring Jennifer Aniston or Linsay Lohan, I finally settled on one of my favorite films--- the 1981 Academy Award winner, Chariots of Fire.

In one memorable scene, sprinter and Christian Missionary Eric Liddle argues with his sister about him going to do his missionary work in China instead of running in the Olympics. Part of Liddle's extraordinary response is the above quotation.

Now that got me thinking. How many of us can say something like that about the things we do? How many of us can honestly say that "God made me for a purpose." How many of us can honestly say that "When I teach, I feel His pleasure." Unfortunately, not very many.

You don't have a Christian Missionary to believe that God made you for a purpose. You don't have to be deeply religious--- or religious at all--- to believe or to sense that when you do your job well you feel the Heavenly Father's pleasure. At least I don't. I am a self-described agnostic, but I can feel it when the Heavenly Spirits are moved and satisfied with the job I do. I can also feel their disappointment when I stink the joint out. This is but one thing that keeps me doing my best in the classroom.

In his mammoth best-seller "The Purpose Driven Life", Pastor Rick Warren of the Sattleback Church, clearly tells us that we were put on this earth for a purpose; an explicit and specific reason why all of us--- every living being--- was born. Many of us may be the result of a night or three of wild passion in some long-forgotten hotel room, but once born we have a specific purpose on this earth. All of us may have come from our father's balls and our mother's womb; God did intend it that way, but once born and on this earth we have a purpose, although we may not know what that purpose is.

We may have to search for it, sacrifice for it, suffer for it, but our life's purpose is always there, always with us, and always within us. For each one of us it's different and we must look within our tortured souls and follow our fractured hearts to know our true purpose in life.

Teachers are put into classrooms for a purpose: To positively contribute to the lives of our students and to add whatever they can to the teaching and learning experience. It's not about taking from the experience; teaching is mainly about giving back.

The Purpose Driven Teacher is, of course, purpose driven; but he is also self-motivated and results oriented. The Purpose Driven Teacher does not sit back and wait for instructions. I awake each morning not with a sense of dread--- "Oh God, what am I going to do today?" I awake each morning with an acute sense of purpose and responsibility. I know exactly what I must do long before stepping into the classroom, and I know how to get it done. I do not have to wait for instructions.

The Purpose Driven Teacher takes Stephen Covey's advice and "begins with the end in mind", one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He knows where he wants his students to be in one month, six months, and a year from where he begins.

The Purpose Driven Teacher guides his students towards progression by using a pedagogical method that takes them where they need to go quickly, effectively, and efficiently. With a Purpose Driven Teacher, there is no time to waste; every moment counts. Each lesson must have a purpose and must yield positive results that can be quantitatively measured. If not, then what is the educational point of the lesson?

A good EFL teacher uses a specific process which leads to progress. Consistency and continuity are two very important educational concepts which lead to learner progress. Language learners rely on instructors who are consistent with their lessons and use the concept of continuity to build upon previous lessons. If the teacher must know what to do and how to do it prior to stepping into the classroom, so should the students. The Purpose Driven Teacher makes sure that the success of the students is built into any pedagogical method that the teacher employs. Success in the classroom should not simply be hoped for, but actively sought. Success is a constant and continuous striving by both teachers and learners.

Let's not forget, however, that the Purpose Driven Teacher is also emotional and uses his emotions for positive effect in the classroom. The Purpose Driven Teacher is not the Tin man from The Wizard of Oz and should never be.

Remembering a particular incident for which I allowed my emotions to get the better of me, four days before my scheduled departure for home this summer, my Korean co-teacher pulled out the contract and asked me to read a specific clause. After doing so she said that according to the contract I have but one week vacation in the summer and one week vacation in the winter. (I teach at a public school where six weeks holiday in the summer and six weeks holiday in the winter are the norm.) Until recently, vacation time has not been questioned.

The co-teacher also informed me that if I went home, (remember, I was going back to visit my sick mother), I might not get paid for the time I was away. Needless to say, I went ballistic on the poor girl. Telling her that this was the wrong time to bring up such contractual nonsense, I grabbed the contract from her hands and tore it up before depositing it in the wastebasket. This wasn't the first time a co-teacher tried to pull this nonsense. I did receive my salary for the time I was away, (I am on a 12 month government contract), and I'm pretty sure that that incident will not repeat itself, (at least not at this school.)

I am neither proud nor ashamed at what I did that day, but it was necessary. The Korean co-teacher was sticking her nose where it didn't belong and was being terribly insensitive at a time when sensitivity and compassion should have ruled the moment. This incident was also a perfect example of what happens when contracts (or mere pieces of paper) are placed above that of the needs of people. What is in the teacher's heart is always far more important and essential than mere words on a page. A teacher's sick mother always takes precedence over a contractual clause. And above all, the law is unyielding and unbending (not to mention straightforward) when a young Korean co-teacher suddenly becomes too big for her britches.

Stepping into the classroom with a clear purpose can very well be the deciding factor in whether or not the learners and the teacher succeeds of fails. Doing anything with a clear purpose and having a plan for success is a solid indication that a purpose driven person knows exactly what to do and how to get it done.

Eric Liddle may have felt God's pleasure with each step he took, but it doesn't have to be God's pleasure I feel in or out of the classroom. It can be anyone close to you. A parent, a relative, a friend, a student, a co-worker, even your own pleasure. The pleasure in a job or lesson done well should not be limited to the Almighty. To share in the success of others, and to invite the pleasure of others in our success, is to be taken out of our selfish human behavior and placed squarely into the realm of unlimited potential and possibilities.

Not to do this would be to hold God and all that we hold dear in contempt.


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