It is that wonderful time of the year when there is cool in the air, early morning sun, malls filled with the sounds and shoppers of the season, and thought of sugar plums dancing in our heads.
For teachers, it is also that season when just showing a video is really tempting.
On Thanksgiving day, we speak of the turkey coma that follows our meal, but for education, there is a similar coma that is looming for the 3-4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. We are in a rush to finish up content, so we fall into doing the quick thing, the easy thing to cover that ground. Innovation takes a back seat to convenience, deeper development cedes to doing what we know.
It has been said that if we always do what we've always done, we will always get what we always got. In the fast paced, ever changing world of education, that has now become- "If we always do what we have always done, we are not keeping up."
I am taking the challenge this stretch to try something new, or to shake things up a bit to fight off the beast of complacency. I'll be trying to create more opportunities for students to interact with each other, and to practice choice in instruction.
Today, my students presented their classroom design projects and an idea struck me- what if we presented our students with a blank room- our room- and asked them to design their learning space? It is something I will be considering for next semester, as I start fresh with some new students in new classes. I have to ask myself these questions:
Would it make us uncomfortable, would it push us to try new things? Would it empower students?
And when fighting the beast of complacency, those questions are the best weapons at our disposal.
Watching an episode of Girl Meets World with my wife and daughters, we saw a story unfold where a character (Farkle, for the uninitiated) begins questioning what he has done with his wealth and brilliance. He feels that there is more he could do, but overwhelmed with where to start. With the help of Mark Cuban in a Shark Tank style scene, he realizes that he would help someone near to him, because he believes in them and their capacity to change the world.
I turned to my eleven and thirteen year old daughters, and I asked them, "How would you change the world?" They mentioned some things, and then Leslie, the teenager (that hurts me to type, by the way) said she would help with homelessness. She said she knew we had some homeless students in our district, then Kenna chimed in that she had heard a story about a young man that had once gone to her school who had been homeless.
With the world going as it is these days, mass shootings, nuclear fears, natural disasters, vitriol and distrust everywhere we turn, I think we need a change. I think our way of doing things is broken, and perhaps turning to our next generation to help effect change is an answer, if not the answer.
But when I first turned the question on my kids, who are deep thinkers and pretty compassionate, they struggled at first. See, I think kids have answers, but they feel we do not believe in them or listen or trust. So, they are afraid of their own brilliance. Afraid that their ideas will be overlooked.
Occasionally, I get this feeling. It is a deep thing, it seems to be churning in my gut, stirring in my heart and clawing in my head. It is a feeling that I am on the verge of getting something transformational. Something that will change things- at least for me. I got that tonight.
If our students are fearful that their ideas to change the world will be ill-received, it is our job as educators to give them a parachute, a safety net to explore vision. This is not a project, not a program, not a plan or a formula. This is a culture. This is an attitude. This is a world changing idea.
I am excited to be a part of something that will ask students how they want to change the world- then equip them to do it. Our district initiative, LEADS, will create these opportunities. Over the last few weeks I have been building a team from campuses all over town. Teachers who are innovative in their classrooms and who get students, who have a knack for bringing better things out of students than even the students know they are capable of.
I will ask them- how would YOU change the world? Because their answer will help them equip students to change their world- starting near to them. On their campus, in their community. With their friends.
Too often, we set out to change the world by trying to lasso the world. Maybe world change starts with the person next to you. The person with skills you do not possess, but who shares a passion to make things better. These teachers I have been meeting with have different skills- they get how to teach reflection, how to dig deep into the motivations of students, how to bring out hidden talents, how to design and build teams. They are going to change the world together.
That is not hyperbole, by the way. I believe the LEADS Innovators (not advisers) will change the world because they all understand this truth:
Students want to change the world, and as educators, we are the fuse that lights their fire.
I cannot wait to get started!