Two critical things to do & remember each day as a teacher

4/9/2012 2:58:00 AM
When I speak to teachers and parents of students and ask them if they are doing work that is meaningful, relevant, and worthy of the world, I often get puzzled looks or disappointing answers. Sometimes this is because there is a belief that we’re only preparing students for work worthy of the world. Actually doing is reserved for adults. Other times it’s because some believe that teaching their subject content is worthy in and of itself.  

I generally get a variety of answers.  An answer might be something like...

"Sure I am. My kids dissect virtual frogs in science class."


"My kids turn in response to literature essays." 

A worse answer will be, something like...
"Sure I am.  My kids are going to be very well prepared for their standardized tests."

The answer some people think I want to hear might go something like this...
“Oh, yes I am! I use Smartboards and I have my kids come up and tap it.”  

For those who know I think Smartboards are dumb, they may say something like this...
“We are using technology to publish student work.”

Good start but when I ask where the work is published and what is happening as a result of the work? 
I often get answers like...
“It’s published on our website, blog, wiki, or maybe YouTube.”

Okay. That’s nice, but if it’s meaningful and worthy of the world how are adults supporting students in getting this work out from just reaching a school audience and into the world? Publishing it to your school or class is nice, but it’s not the world. It doesn’t help young people feel like they matter. It doesn’t help them understand how they have the power to change the world.  Publishing something and doing nothing is usually not empowering students to do as much as they can.

Unfortunately, in this age of accountability, many have lost sight of what really matters. In many schools it no longer matters what students, teachers or leaders are doing to change the world. What matters today is how well you help students fill in bubbles.

And, frankly...

That's a skill that doesn’t matter! 

It's time to get back to the basics and by that I don’t mean reading, writing, and rithmetic.  I mean, the basics of why we decided to do this work. We didn’t enter this field to help kids fill in tiny bubbles.  We want our work to matter. We want to make a great impact on the lives of children. We know students won’t remember their favorite teachers or best times in school from the teachers who talked, textbooked, and tested. They will remember their teacher who told them they mattered. They won’t fondly remember the one who lied and answered that "you need to know this and take these tests to be prepared for the world." They will remember the teacher who told them they can change the world today.

How can you become that teacher?  By doing and remembering two important things.

Here they are:
Every day educators must remember two things.
1) We are not teaching subjects. We are teaching children.
2) Children are more than test scores.

Every day educators must do two things.
1) Be aware of how you are supporting your children in doing work that is worthy of the world.
2) Ensure each child knows that they matter.

What does this really mean?  Well, I’m bringing to you the two best people in the world that I know of to explain what I’m talking about. 

Kiran Bir Sethi - Kids take charge
Watch this video to learn what happens when we empower kids to take charge and do work worthy of the world.

Angela Maiers - You Matter
Angela Maiers empowers youth to figure out why they and their peers matter. This reading and videos show how.  

Read this article
12 ways to let every person in our lives now their value, contribution and significance.

Watch these two videos

If you are an educator (note: parents are educators) who is doing this work with your children (or if you’re a child doing this work), know that the world is thirsty for it. Show us. Tell us. Comment and share here and inspire others. If you’re not doing this work yet, tell us how you plan to get started. Let’s let our children know they matter and we will no longer hold them back from doing work that is worthy of the world.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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