One day I observed a social studies teacher who tried to sell students on the value of studying geographical regions with the pitch: “Look at the cover of your textbook. What’s the title? Right: ‘Horizons: States and Regions.’ So if you don’t know what ‘regions’ are, you won’t understand what your textbook is about.” Sitting in the back of the room, I thought, That’s true and a fair point, but I’m not sure it would get anyone out of bed in the morning.
Afterwards, I met with the teacher—an energetic, receptive guy who had attended one of my workshops on RPM (Rigorous, Purposeful, Measurable) objectives—and he said he’d tried that pitch because he knew he had to set a purpose for the day’s lesson, but he agreed it had fallen flat. In fact, he hadn’t been pleased with the whole lesson. He’d relied too much on the textbook. “The kids were bored. I was bored. It was awful.” He shook his head.
This led me to ask him: “How would you have set the purpose if you hadn’t had the textbook?”
We talked about it, and this is what we came up with: he could have said, for example: “When you grow up, you’re going to get a job, and you’re going to be able to choose where you want to live—especially if you get a good education, so you can have the freedom to decide where you want to work and where you want to live. And there are different kinds of regions that you can choose from, so that’s why we’re going to look into them today….”
See, it’s not enough to have just any purpose. It has to be relevant, so the students can see what’s in it for them. And as much as possible, they need something to look forward to: a life full of freedom, choices, and promise.