Dr. Rowlanda Cawthon: “Why I Teach”
Simon Sinek, a well-known TEDx speaker, coined the phrase, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” For the past year, I’ve thought considerably about “why” I teach and the impact that teaching has had on my life and on the lives of those I serve. What I’ve learned is that there is much more to teaching than simply developing curriculum, lecturing, and grading assignments.
Undoubtedly, my “why” is inspired by experiences I had with an exceptional educator. It was the caring words and actions of a teacher that played a role in the personal and professional transformation I experienced during a pivotal period in my life. Because of his encouragement, after an eleven-year career with the Department of Corrections, I faithfully transitioned to higher education to teach full-time. It’s worth noting that this teacher also inspired me to pursue a doctoral degree, a goal that for some reason I believed was unattainable. His belief in me and his willingness to serve as my mentor throughout my doctoral journey helped me accomplish this goal. Given my experiences, I know that the implications of teaching extend far beyond the classroom.
As an educator, I strive to model the behavior of my teacher, mentor, and friend who helped change the trajectory of my life. Like him, I strive to capitalize on the infinite opportunities available to me to be a source of inspiration and hope. With this in mind, I teach because of an intense desire to influence and transform the lives of my students. This is not merely from an academic standpoint, but this is also from a life standpoint.
For me, teaching is a noble calling. I don’t view it as a job but as a means to bring out the best in people, especially when they don’t see it in themselves. Teaching is a platform for me to serve God by utilizing my gifts and talents to influence others to think deeply and behave differently. I teach to build long-lasting, positive relationships that will inevitably allow us to grow and learn together—academically, personally, professionally, and spiritually.
In short, my “why” for teaching comes from within and is fueled by passion. It’s my love for the work and commitment to serving students that compel me to teach.