I read an interesting blog post recently that contained some gems of wisdom I'd like to share:
"Teachers need to show what they stand for, and more and more we need to stand for something beyond doctrinal platitudes...it is activists, not obedient employees, who make a difference, who make the world a better place."
--Denis G. Rancourt, "Academic Squatting: A Democratic Method of Curriculum Development." (April 13, 2007, from his blog, http://activistteacher.blogspot.com)
I've been thinking quite a bit lately about my own call to activism. It began in high school, with concern for the environment, and continued in college because of my work with prominent Democratic politicians. My activist streak deepened as a result of being a news reporter, as I investigated and reported on many horrifying stories about groundwater contamination and the health problems that seemed to be caused by living near nuclear reactors.
Currently, I am very concerned with the need to reform American education by moving away from high-stakes testing to more equitable, fluid and creative ways of teaching and gauging learning.
I want to see more focus on the arts in schools (I am considering launching a local afterschool arts program for students), and I know there's a real need for teachers' intellectual freedom to be both protected and encouraged.
If we want our students to develop the brightest possible minds, then we need them to be taught by brilliant, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers and doers.
I keep reading how the best corporations are encouraging creativity with, for example, free days for brainstorming and personal projects and new ways of working with non-standard hours, more amenities on campus. Why shouldn't schools do the same?
I love reading about classrooms where a teacher managed to get new furniture such as movable tables with swinging foot bars and stools. Why were these needed? Because students learn better when they can move, when they aren't trapped, when they can collaborate and discuss things more easily. Such a simple idea, but most schools wouldn't allow a teacher to do what s/he knows is best, and that's very sad.
We are confined by rules, but we need to show our students, I think, what can be done despite the rules, and what amazing changes can happen when people take action to make their world a better place.
Teachers teach because they care about youth, and what better way to show that you care than to be active in the community, to engage in intellectual discussions, to encourage knowledge of the big issues?
Teachers need to move from academia to activism. I believe that teachers should write about the problems facing their students and the nation, the world , and get involved to change things and act on what they know is right.
That's what I am trying to do now. This summer, I am taking my brainchild, The Full Potential Seminars for Students, to several states in an effort to jumpstart young minds that may have been stalled due to the distractions of popular culture or the boredom caused by stodgy school curricula.
I became inspired to act on the problem of unrealized student potential when I considered how students can become engaged in their own learning, and why--perhaps--they haven't been. The first step, I think, is to get students interested in something, anything. How can teachers find out what a student's interest is? Try wide exposure to a variety of topics through reading, viewing of films and art, and captivating, active discussion of the issues.
I am lucky that many things have always interested me, but all a "bored" student really needs is one overriding academic passion with which s/he can begin. From there, the student can pick up speed quickly, reading more, thinking more, making amazing connections. At that point, the student easily develops the potential to change him or herself and, later, to change the world.
Students need to find that one interest and then fully explore it through reading and studying (not a chore at all when you love what you're learning!), experimenting and writing about what was found.
We all have a calling and a purpose. We all have untapped potential. My current activism involves helping students discover what they most want to do, which--oftentimes--is part of what they were meant to do.
It's never too early and it's never too late to work on realizing your Full Potential. What do you most want to learn about? What do you most want to do? Look into a new idea, work at it, and then get out there and show the world what you can do.