A few years ago, my students were learning about poetry interpretation in debate class. So, I promised to model for them what the performance should look like. I chose a poem to weave in with other poems (that's debate talk for 'edit') called "What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali. And I chose the edited, version, for those who are aware of this particular piece. The piece starts with the question about teacher compensation, but over the course of the poem, Mali argues that teachers make kids learn, grow, mature, see the world uniquely and push the boundaries. He concludes with this:
"Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a --- difference! Now what about you?"
Even now, this resonates with me, and with countless other teachers. We want to make a difference. We want to inspire, to challenge and to have a hand in shaping our students. I think we are "Made to Make" as this Craftsman video explains/
I think we are made to make, but like the video says, somewhere we became more about assembly than creation, we make for convenience and simplicity.
Yet, I believe we long for impact greater than we see. We want to see students create, make, and make a difference in our world, but often we find ourselves bound to the structures and standards of our content. We want to see students make a difference, and we want to equip them.
We want students to see the needs of the world around them and address it. Two students from College Station did that a few years ago when they created Books and a Blanket. They observed that some students did not have access to books, and in some cases the comfort and needs of a blanket fo warmth. They went out and developed a plan and a program to meet the need. A small plan gained traction and exploded. Since 2012, they have distributed over 52,500 books to over 4,300 kids. They have brought national attention to a need. They have made a difference.
Another student named Srinidhi saw that there was a significant lack of interest in math among female students. So she began a program to reach them. Our local paper carried the story about how Srinidhi's program- meeting twice weekly at a local church- not only creates interest in math for girls but maintains it. Her impact is showing up in classrooms and extra-curriculars already simply because she saw a need, and sought to meet it.
Both of these stories are about students being leaders, being made to make a difference. And neither story was confined to a classroom.
This is where we as teachers struggle. How can we empower students to effect change beyond the classroom?
This question was at the heart of a discussion started last year in the College Station ISD Dream Team. Several educators met over the course of a few months and discussed this idea of turning student voice into student empowerment and action. Those discussions ultimately led to an idea now known as LEADS (Lead Empower Act Develop Serve).
At its heart, LEADS is about providing our students with an opportunity to become aware of the world around them- its needs and possibilities- and then help them to develop plans and programs to meet those needs and achieve those possibilities. The impact of Books and A Blanket and Srinidhi's math program has been significant, but LEADS is looking to amplify the power of students to effect change in their schools and community. Imagine not two or three students charging forward and taking a risk to better things, but four to six per campus, from all secondary campuses in a district. Imagine if these forty two students developed seven to twelve (or more) programs like those above, and impacted students, schools, communities and perhaps even more with thier passion, determination and drive.
What if we could harness the energy and excitement of a generation HUNGRY to make things better? What if we dared to look at them as leaders today- not just someday? What if we empowered them with a "YES!" instead of a "We'll see." What if we gave them time, resources and training to turn raw passion into a focused plan with materials and funding needed to make them happen?
What if the one that held that power to empower was you?
Because it can be.
See, LEADS needs teacher advisors. Teachers who want to see students empowered and equipped for world changing. LEADS needs educators that believe as much in their students as their students believe in their dreams. LEADS needs teachers that refuse to be told what they can't do, and refuse to let students accept that response from anyone else.
College Station ISD is looking for some teachers who are willing to take a risk and develop leadership and service ideas with students. Educators who want to connect with students that are inspiring and inspired should take a look at this application and submit it to their principal. This is an opportunity to help make something that is lasting, powerful and impactful to their students, school, and community.
This is an opportunity to make an even greater difference.
I hope you will join the LEADS team on this journey.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about LEADS, or check the website linked above.
I teach Psychology, Sociology, Communication Applications and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team and co-sponsor Student Council. I am an aspiring administrator.