In a captivating TED talk watched by over 5 million people, Simon Sinek describes how great leaders inspire action in their listeners and followers by communicating inside out, or starting with why. Sinek provides several case studies and grounds his theory in biology (“not psychology”) focusing on our “limbic brains”.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I would like to extend Sinek’s thesis to the classroom. For which leaders in our society are more important than those that have the burden of educating our future generations? I would confidently argue: none.

There has always been much talk about the “what” and “how” in education. We constantly talk about what we teach in schools, and how we teach it. Not enough thought goes into the why component of learning and education. This is not just about whether we educate children to send so they are “college ready” or “college bound”, it is much deeper than that. It is ensuring that teachers, and more importantly, learners, have an answer to the question of “why am I learning this” that goes beyond “to get a job” or “to go to college”.

Once educators themselves start with why they can begin finding their own purpose and passion in learning (alternatively they may realize that teaching is not for them), and more importantly a stronger emphasis on the why allows for more critical thinking in the classroom allowing students to dig deeper and more meaningfully into the goal behind their journey after knowledge.

The Irish playwright and poet, W.B. Yeats, once said that, “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”. The lighting of this fire will be one of the keys to solving the upcoming global challenge of youth unemployment. Creating more independent and purposeful learners will ensure that the students of the future take a more active role in taking career and life choices so that they have a clearer image of what they can and want to do, well before they graduate from high school.  Starting with why will be key if our goal is to create an entrepreneurial society where people tackle their daily challenges – including finding employment -with a problem-solving mindset. As one of the pioneers in education, Sir Ken Robinson, has argued before “finding your passion changes everything”.

Maybe the American author, William A. Ward, put it best when he said:

The mediocre teacher tells.

The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates.

The great teacher inspires

Nafez Dakkak is interested in Education Reform, MENA politics, social entrepreneurship, and tech start-ups and is a firm believer in the power of gamfication. His main passion is the intersection between technology and education entrepreneurship.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons