What is your story: Why did you become an educator?

Dennis Sparks Here’s a story told by a principal that has stuck with me since I first read it in 2001:

“When I was in 3rd grade my father died. I was greeted at school the following day by my principal who held me in his arms and told me in a voice I believed, ‘You are going to be okay.’ That’s when I knew I would be. I’m a principal today because I wanted to be someone who could make such a powerful difference for a child.” ***

Most teachers and principals have a story that explains why they became an educator. Sometimes their stories are about exemplars who inspired them to follow their example, like in the story above.

Sometimes their stories describe a strong desire to improve conditions or remedy a wrong they experienced as students or earlier in their educational careers.

Reminding ourselves of our stories—and hearing the stories of our colleagues—can reinforce or reacquaint us with the motives that first drew us into teaching and leadership.

Sharing such stories in faculty meetings—which in small groups may only take a few minutes—increases staff cohesion as teachers develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of one another.

The collective content of such stories can also inspire and guide the creation of schools in which everyone thrives, adults and young people alike.

What is your story?

***This story was recounted by George Manthey in the October 2001 issue of The School Administrator. It’s a story that undoubtedly had special resonance coming just a few weeks after the events of September 11.

2 Responses to “What is your story: Why did you become an educator?”


  1. 1 eeisenberg1 November 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

    These stories are so powerful. I think that’s why so many of us became educators… we were inspired and encouraged to be the best person we could be. In turn, we wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s why we are still here and still trying to make a difference! Sharing stories helps make those personal connections that build trusting relationships.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks November 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      I appreciate you underscoring the important role that stories can play in establishing trust and building relationships, particularly stories that explain what we value and the people and events that have shaped us.


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