Professional Learning

4 Ways Teachers Can Change the World

July 3, 2013
Image credit: iStockphoto

Changing the world sounds like a tall order. But in reality, educators play their role to help change the world every single day. The summer is a great time to start planting seeds of change in our personal or professional practice. Here are a few quick ideas to keep in mind over the next few weeks before we gear up to go back to school.

1. Share

Sharing is a key theme in the speech I gave at ISTE this year. It is a key theme of education in general. Learning is inherently selfish. We need to share what we learn and know with others -- that, after all, is what being an educator is about. All educators (all learners, really) have so much to offer each other -- from ideas and concepts that are tested, tried and true, to kernels of thoughts that are not yet fully realized.

Spend some time sharing this summer. You can share with your colleagues at school, write blog posts or tweets, or open up some Google Docs with ideas you'd like think through and invite others to collaborate on that thinking. You might be surprised by how many people benefit from your sharing. I have found that even sharing a link to a cool app or an article that I found interesting can really inspire, motivate and help others out.

Many of you are saying, "Well, I share all the time." Excellent -- continue to do so. This advice is for those that, for whatever reason, are not as inclined to share. Maybe that's because it takes extra time or because you might be unsure of the result or doubt the impact of what you have to offer. Share anyway.

2. Care

We all have personal passions. Take some time this summer to come up with a charity fundraiser that relates to your passion. If you're really into bike riding or writing or singing, whatever you're personally interested in, it would likely make for the start of a great fundraiser. I have found that, as an educator, sharing my personal passions with students is a great way to bond with them, and if we tie in the act of doing something for the greater good, it becomes even more meaningful to us as a community.

One idea would be to organize a back-to-school event where the proceeds go to a charity that you, your school, or your community is interested in supporting. This can be a talent show, a carnival, a relay race, a game night or pretty much anything you're interested in. These are usually very easy ways to show students a little about charity work and also bring staff, students and parents together for a valid and noble cause that can help emphasize the impact and importance of selflessness and small change adding up.

While you can plan a school-wide event and let your imagination run wild, this can be also be on a much smaller scale, like decorating some coffee cans and putting them around the school with a link to a PollEverywhere poll that changes each week or month. Then students and teachers can text in a charity that they want to get involved with and donate the money from that period of time to the charity of the school's choice. Helping students experience acts of caring is much more valuable than trying to teach them how to care. Get them involved and experiencing how great it feels to help others, and it is likely something they will continue to do long after the school bell has rung.

3. Connect

Being an educator today is wonderful, but it is also challenging. The only way to make change is to see these challenges that we face as opportunities. And many times, others have already faced these same challenges and either overcame them or pointed out what they learned from the experience. Summer is a great time to connect with others. Whether you physically attend a professional development opportunity like an EdCamp or virtually join a Twitter chat, take this opportunity to strengthen your personal learning network of passionate educators.

Summer is also the perfect time to start learning from those with differing opinions. Seeking out people with thinking unlike our own is helpful, as it gives us a chance to cogently solidify our own notions, and often allows us to see and really understand an alternative view -- and begin to find middle ground or bridge a gap between the two ways of thinking.

Many schools are continuing to contemplate initiatives like BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or rewriting the RUP (Responsible Use Policies) for their students -- and this is a great time to connect with other schools, staff, students and parents to learn more about the benefits and challenges so that you can hit the ground running next year.

4. Reflect

Take some time to think back on what worked this year. Why did these moments or lessons or projects stand out as highlights? What didn't work as well as you hoped? Don't belabor the point, but if there was something that didn't turn out as planned, now is a perfect time of year to explore alternatives. Your brain needs time to rest, and your body needs time to relax, so sit back and dream about things you'd like to try and ways you'd like to make the learning opportunities in your classroom even bigger, bolder and more impactful for the learners you're about to encounter.

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