The movie Freedom Writers is about a teacher name Erin Gruwell. She enters an impoverished school and eventually learns how to connect with her students. She reaches extraordinary levels of performance and her students change. At one point she reflects on her teaching and she says: “I finally realized what I’m supposed to be doing and I love it. When I’m helping these kids make sense of their lives, everything about my life makes sense to me. How often does a person get that?”
Erin is suggesting that she has found and she has mastered a life activity in which she is able to give meaningfully. Because she does, the world changes for the better. In her case the human condition changes so profoundly that being part of the process loops back upon her in a profound way. The change in her students changes her state of being. When she teaches, she experiences self-actualization. Since the actualization of self is one of life’s most rewarding experiences, Erin loves teaching. It is not her job; it is her calling.
I met with a new group of students. The first words out of my mouth were these: “How will you be different at the end of the semester?” There was a long pause then the answers started to come. They said meaningful things. The class was becoming oriented to purpose.
I later asked a question and a student spoke about spending his life trying to measure up to his brother. It was very authentic moment and I called attention to the authenticity. Others recognized the power in his words.
As the day went on, the collective authenticity increased and I could see people making sense of their lives and changing in real time. At the end of the day, a couple of students approached me. They both told intimate stories of confused life direction and asked if they could make an appointment.
As I drove home I thought of the emergence of purpose and authenticity. It reminded me of Erin’s statement. I was helping my students make sense of their lives and doing that makes sense of my life.
- How do you make sense of your life?
- What would happen if you asked, “How will your life be different at the end of the next project?”
- What if you turned your work unit into a classroom of profound learning?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?