I had an epiphany this week. I wish I would have had this mind-blown moment years ago…it is going to revolutionize the way I think about teaching and my role as a teacher. I am almost ashamed to admit it, though. I have worked with teachers who live this out every day. It just didn’t sink in and click in for me until this week.
This mind-storm (pun intended…LEGO fans) was initiated by two things: a documentary about the man behind Segway scooters (and FIRST Robotics) and the story of LEGO Africa. The documentary is about Dean Kamen and how he is trying to solve the world’s clean water problem (which I think he might just do!). If you have Netflix, you really need to watch it; it’s called SlingShot. LEGO Africa is a program started by a 6 year-old boy with an idea and his father to send LEGO to schools and communities in Africa. It is an amazing program! I will share a video at the end about it.
Before that, I need to get back to my epiphany. Are you ready for it?
Teaching is not about teaching.
Now that I write it out, it doesn’t make sense. Maybe I need to add to this a little to fill in the gaps of thought. Let me try again.
Education is not about teaching…
The true heart of being an educator is not about delivering content…the internet does that on it’s own just fine (before that we had little things called books and encyclopedias). It is not about helping students learn the ins-and-outs and nuts-and-bolts of the world. It is not about making students feel better and increase their self-esteem (not that this is not important, but it is not the main goal of teaching). It is not wrapped up in the art of presenting and knowing all of the cool ways to use technology breakthroughs to be the best at it. It is not, obviously, about planning, grading, and keeping up with the latest and greatest PD. No, the role of being a teacher is not all about these things that define being a teacher in our society.
Education is much, much more than teaching.
At the core of education is something very much deeper than teaching. It is something almost indescribable. It is something we can’t put our finger on or even quite know for certain from where we stand. It is something that is vital to our planet more than ever, I believe, and the world that know won’t survive without it.
Education is about the future.
It is not about the here and now. It is not, quite frankly, about us. It is, however, the very heart and soul of generations to come. Our role as educators, especially the teachers at the front lines, is to prepare the leaders of tomorrow to solve the problems of today and make the world a better place. It is all about making tomorrow better without knowing what it will bring.
I actually am kidding there. It is slightly stressful to think about, but at the same time it is also freeing. It really lets you take stock of your true purpose in the classroom. You can drop back, reflect on all that you do, and then start fresh with a new perspective and drive.
A quick disclaimer…
As I continue, please know that I realize that content is important for all of this, but I am thinking more about our reasons and thoughts behind teaching content. What are we doing it for? Do we have a bigger purpose? I do believe there is a great picture here.
It is all about equipping leaders, thinkers, and doers.
Our job is to help students become who they need to be to lead the world to a better place than it is right now. We are making leaders that will look at what is going on and be determined to find ways to fix it. We are developing the thinkers that will be able to look at problems with fresh eyes and see new solutions to age-old problems. We are training doers that aren’t afraid to get dirty and do the work that needs to be done to clean up the messes that have been made. We are changing the world…but only from a distance.
So how, pray-tell, do we do this?
We have to come to our role as educators from a different perspective. We have to ask some hard questions:
- Are we giving our students practice at solving real problems and making this the reason that content is needed?
- Are we telling students how to learn or giving them opportunities to need to learn and find how they do that best on their own (with a lot of scaffolding)?
- Are we honest with students about what is going on in the world at-large and giving them opportunities to think up ways to help contribute to solutions?
- Are we giving students chances to think outside of themselves and show compassion to others (or at least to empathize with them)?
- Are we allowing students the time and space to work on ideas for helping others or solving problems in their communities?
I could go on and on, but I think you get it.
If you teach using PBL, than you have already thought through a lot of this. I do challenge you to keep thinking and questioning your true motives for how you teach…is it really about the future or getting the content in?
I am pretty sure that if you are reading this, you already think on this level. I just really wanted to share my thoughts on all of this today.
It truly hit home for me this week that there is a real world out there with so many problems that our students are going to have to grow up and solve. We need to start them thinking about this all now and giving them the opportunities to start working through it. They may already be able to come to better conclusions than we have!
To sum this really long post up…the Teacher’s gift is the future. It is ours to mold and take care of, but it is also ours to give. How are you doing with that gift?
You are awesome! I know you already think on these terms. Thanks for reading as I verbal process these thoughts and reflect on them! You really are making a difference and you are most definitely changing the future for the good! You rock! Keep on teaching, Teacher!
Here is the LEGO Africa video: