Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How can I make a change in public education right now?

Ms. Dorothy,
What can I do right now to change what is wrong with education for my students? I'm a relatively new teacher and I just want to feel like I'm doing something to make it better. Everyone complains, but no one will tell me what specifically I can do tomorrow that will matter. I know there are a million things that need to change, and I can't fix all of that, but there must be something I can do that would make it better. Right?
- 1st year Teacher

What a great way to look at making lesson plans for tomorrow! Of course there are things we can all do to make education work for students, and maybe your idea of one thing, right now, is the best way to go about it.

If I were to name one thing that you can do to improve education, I would say that you should have a passion outside of school. There should be something in your life that is exciting and inspiring to you, something that you enjoy doing, something that you look forward to spending time on, that isn't school.

That may seem really hard right now, you are just starting teaching, and it probably consumes far too much of your personal time- and that is reason enough to start working on your passion now. Not because you need something else to do, but because you need to bring something that isn't in a text book or curriculum map to your students.

Learn to play an instrument. Join a rock band. Audition for a community theater play. Crochet blankets for a shelter. Volunteer to sit on the board of a non-profit organization. Open a community garden. Start a blog reviewing movies or books. Photograph light poles or road signs. Take an art class. Study martial arts. Dance, mime, juggle, tell jokes, do yoga, learn to speak Klingon, or Elvish....

Your passion for something will open a world to them and invite the possibility that they too can explore. It will fuel your writing to have something in your life that excites you, and they will see that. It will fill you with drive and heal you when things are tough in school, and they will see how you are invigorated and refreshed by what you do. It will give you a different frame of reference and a new bank of metaphors, and they will see how what you teach applies outside of school.

It will make you a better teacher, and it will inspire other teachers, and that will make the whole system grow.

'm certain that there will be many, many ways that you will make a difference in the lives of the students you teach. Remembering to work on the relationship you have with each individual child will always matter more than any other preparation you do.

When they know that you are there for them, and not just for the content you teach, all the rest becomes easier. And when they know that you care enough about yourself to feed your own passions, they will value your relationship that much more.

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