Gerry ChidiacAuthor and motivational speaker Simon Sinek tells us that as individuals, groups or corporations, it’s essential we start by understanding our why.

This isn’t simply a question of why I go to work. It’s not a question of what I do.

It’s a quest to find the essence of my being.

I’ve always loved teaching and several years ago I posted my goals on the wall of my classroom: Create happy memories for each student and help each student to achieve their greatest potential.

These goals help keep me focused from day to day as I teach each class and as I interact with each student. I’ve never done a survey, but when I run into people I taught, I get the impression that these goals have been achieved. At least I hope so.

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I thought I had things figured out and in addition to teaching, I began writing a weekly column. Now I wasn’t only working with students in a classroom, I was reaching out to readers of all ages. I felt my goal had simply expanded. I wanted my readers to have a positive experience and to be inspired to achieve their greatest potential.

As I began developing my website, I met with my friend Robert. I told him what my goal was and he said, “That’s great Gerry. It tells me what you do. It doesn’t tell me who you are, it doesn’t tell me why you’re motivated to be a teacher.”

Robert and I talked about a lot of things. What am I interested in? What do I believe? What do I spend most of my time doing? Who do I admire and why?

Through our conversations, it became very clear that I had a firm belief in the good that exists in all humans. I also had a deep desire to know the truth, as well as an awareness that this quest is a lifelong task. I knew that to be an effective teacher, I needed to be a student as well.

Then Robert proposed the following: Gerry Chidiac is a champion for social enlightenment, inspiring people to find greatness in making the world better.

I’ll admit I was a bit taken aback by this statement, even a bit embarrassed. Is that really what I am? Does everything I do emanate from that centre?

To be honest, the answer was yes. I know humans are better together. There’s infinite potential in each person and we’re at our best when we’re learning from one another. Losing sight of this always leads to failure, individually and globally.

Everything I teach – whether social sciences, languages or personal development – revolves around these ideas. I love my work because I get to do what I am. I get to live my why every minute and that’s very life-giving.

I don’t know if I planned to be where I am in my career but I feel quite fortunate. I write for editors who respect my ideals and allow me to freely express my views. I’m a member of the BC Teachers’ Federation, which not only shares my ideals and holds me accountable for living according to them, it provides a democratic structure that allows me to hold the institution accountable as well. This shared accountability is vital to every institution and every person in it.

Challenges are inevitable. What determines our ability to weather the storms that come our way has less to do with what we do than why we do it.

Figuring out our why isn’t easy but it’s well worth the effort.

Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.

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