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Purpose!: "How Do We Ignite a Sense of Purpose in the Classroom?"

By Grace Kirk

Schools are critical locations where students can (and should) leave feeling a sense of purpose. A young person’s purpose goes beyond just their duty to the world; it is a feeling of determination and importance, purpose gives us a path for our life. The question remains, how do we as educators ignite this sense of purpose in our classrooms? One option that reappeared in my search for answers was encouraging students to focus on the future rather than get worked up and stuck in the here and now. For example, suppose “Lucy” had a difficult time learning this week’s vocabulary list but spent every night studying and practicing. In that case, the educator should praise Lucy for her determination and remind her that her work ethic will carry her far. This could open up a conversation between Lucy and the educator about Lucy’s goals and what she is passionate about. The educator can remind Lucy that she already has the tools to accomplish her purpose.

Turning students’ gaze towards the future can also be a mindfulness practice. Prompting students to envision their lives one year, or 5 years from now relieves them of the pressure of today. It is important for educators to introduce students to a wide range of “purpose possibilities.” Depending on students’ age, their purpose can be as simple as being kind or standing up to bullies. For older students, activities like value training can ignite a sense of purpose. I personally was tasked with identifying my values in a classroom setting, and every day since then my life has had a clear path, and every day I wake up chasing my purpose. It is no secret that when students feel and know their purpose in school, their chances of success are high.

During my internship with ETGE, I was tasked with creating a lesson plan focusing on purpose. I included the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which is an exercise that has been used for hundreds of years to help people of all ages find their purpose. I also created an activity that prompts students to visualize themselves in the future, and then depict what they saw on paper. This was important for me to include because students are actually physically depicting themselves beyond right now. I think it will be worthwhile to see the answers that 3rd-5th graders come up with for their purpose. No matter the answer, the act of finding purpose is something that should be brought into the classroom and fostered in everyday small ways.


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