When students cannot see the purpose in a teacher’s lesson, they will often ask the question, “Why do we have to learn this?” This question makes perfect sense, since the purpose of the brain was never to make straight As or score high on a standardized test. The purpose of the brain is survival in the real world. So the question becomes, “What does this lesson have to do with my survival?”
When I teach students, I begin by establishing the lesson’s purpose as it relates to the students. For example, math lessons do not begin with the problems in the book. Those problems may have no relevance. I make up real-life math problems. I even incorporate the names of students in those problems so that they can see the purpose in learning the concept. A high school math teacher once related to me that his students did not understand the concept of logarithms until after the most recent earthquake in Japan. He told them that the Richter Scale is a logarithmic scale and explained that a 7 on that scale is far more severe than a 6. It was then that students understood the meaning and relevance of logarithms.
The concept of purpose, however, is bigger than a math lesson. When adults have lost their reason to get up in the morning or their something to look forward to, they may have lost their life’s purpose. When that purpose is lost, they may not live very long. This may be the reason that many people die shortly after retiring from a job they have worked at for many years or after the loss of a spouse they have loved deeply. For example, Mr. Rogers died soon after his show went off the air. Charles Schultz died on the same day that his last Peanuts cartoon appeared in the paper. Johnny Cash may have lived a lot longer if June Carter had not died first. Andy Rooney and Morley Safer both died soon after their careers on 60 Minutes were concluded.
What, then, is the answer? When a person loses one purpose, they would do well to find another one. This is how people survive tragedy. Often when a loved one is lost, other family members will establish a fund or award in the name of the deceased person to give purpose and meaning to their life. Establish a purpose for your existence and spend your life attempting to accomplish it. If you lose one, get another one. When you retire from your current job, find other things that will keep your brain and body active.
I retired from the DeKalb County School System in Decatur Georgia after 30 years of service. After 13 years retired, I am busier now than I was when I worked for the system. People are always commenting that I do not look my age. My two secrets – staying busy doing what I love and laughing a great deal everyday. Try it, you’ll like it!