Based in Long Beach, California, "Teach Me Mr. West" is a blog by Jason West. His posts explore the rewards and challenges of being a highly effective 21st century educator.

Finding Your "Why"

Finding Your "Why"

My name is Christopher A. Hoang and I have been in education since 2006. I have worked a variety of roles from instructional aide, after school program coordinator, teacher, and administrator. I currently serve as an assistant principal for a high school that focuses on an alternative educational model: independent study.

I’d like to thank Jason for allowing me the opportunity to blog on his site. I have been blessed to cross his path in a past job. The two things I have noticed to be constant for him: passion and humor. He always believed that students should be afforded every opportunity to succeed and that laughter helped make learning easier. It is great that his blog posts continue to reinforce this belief. I can only hope my post will live up to the standard that he has set for all other guest bloggers.

I know, I know...your thoughts are so loud I can actually hear them. Yes, I’m an administrator. Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “What does an administrator know about teaching? They don’t remember the plight that teachers go through on a daily basis. They don’t understand the pressure and stress that we take home each day. If they did, they wouldn’t make our lives harder implementing more policies, taking us out of the classroom for needless professional development!

I totally get it. You’re right.

I’m also in the same boat though. In the business world, an assistant principal would be considered middle management. I have to support my faculty while also making sure my boss (the principal) is happy. In fact, my current duties and responsibilities include: teacher evaluations, curriculum review, attend and hold meetings, professional developments, and developing community relationships. It’s fairly cut and dry. Of course, the exception is that I also have on my contract a clause that adds more work. Ever see an “and all other duties as assigned” on a contract that made you feel good? Yeah, neither have I. Basically, it means that whatever the principal or my faculty asks of me, I’m contractually obligated to do. Sounds exciting, huh?

I remember about four months into the job, I was asking myself these questions:

Why did I give up my classroom?

Why did I go into admin?

Why am I working 16 hour days without a summer break?

I was lost. I even thought about quitting and going back into the classroom. Then I heard a powerful TED talk by Simon Sinek titled, “Start with Why.” I learned that “why” is the purpose, or core belief, that you hold. The reason I was burning out was because I was letting my “what” define me; I was letting my roles and responsibilities (my “what”) dictate my life. I needed to let my “why” be my focal point.

The moment I began reflecting on this message was the moment I was able to rediscover my “why.” My purpose is to be an advocate for equitable education for all students. Being an advocate is my core belief, it is the reason why I got into education. While my “what” is to do my job as an admin (“and all other duties as assigned”), my “why” is to advocate for all students.

Now, believe me, it’s really easy to confuse your “what” for your “why.” As educators, that’s the trap. When people ask what your purpose in life is, what is your response? Hopefully it isn’t to teach students--that’s your “what.” If you don’t know your why, you don’t know your passion and purpose. And if you don’t have that, you’re bound to burn out.

Educators are asked to do a lot. I highly doubt when you went into teaching that you knew the role of the teacher would include mentor, parent, counselor, friend, interventionist, mental healthcare specialist, and so much more. With all that is asked of teachers, it is crucial that we continue to remind ourselves of our “why.” It is necessary for us to recall our purpose and the reason we became educators to begin with. By knowing our why, each and every day we come to work is a day full of blessings.

Mr. West mentioned a while back that he likes when his students challenge the purpose of his lessons by asking, “why are we doing this?” So with that same spirit of understanding our “why,”  I’ll leave you with a similar question:

Why are you doing this?

Christopher Hoang is a passionate educator who advocates for the rights of equitable education for all. You can find him on Instagram as @choangy

The Least Important Person in the Room

The Least Important Person in the Room