For years in college classes and in various new teacher training’s, I was told over and over that the larger purpose of school and education is “to prepare students to participate in America’s democratic society.” While this is based off of the highly regarded work of John Dewey, I have to admit, I’ve always had a problem with this definition.
To me, this definition is like when teachers used to say that I would need to know whatever they were teaching “when I got to the real world.” Can you think of a less motivating reason than that to get a kid engaged in learning? I can’t. When I heard that as a kid, I thought, “Phew, I’m off the hook… I won’t need to know this for another 15 years!”
My beef with John Dewey’s definition is that based on his idea, we are preparing students to be a citizen in our society someday in the future. Shouldn’t we be preparing kids to be apart of our society and world right now? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them that they can and should be making a positive impact on the world now? No one said you have wait until you’re 18 before you make a world a better place.
Below I will explain how I encourage my students to be positive and productive citizens, right here and now.
Show Students The Possibilities
“How wonderful is it that no one needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Every morning, I start the day off with something I call, “Positive Power” which is a positive video, article, or read aloud book that encourages and inspires students. The videos I show cycle through many different themes throughout the year. One of my favorite kinds of videos to show showcase kids around the world that are taking action to make the world a better place. I always tell students that there is no age requirement to do something to positively impact the world. Below are a few of my favorite examples of videos to show students what’s possible for them to achieve.
“If you can’t feed 100 people, then just feed one.”
– Mother Theresa
A common misconception among kids is that if they want to make an impact on the world they need to do some grand gesture like cure cancer, or make sure everyone in the world has access to wifi. These goals seem so large that they don’t even know where to start. One of the first things I teach kids is that any small act can make a positive impact on the world. Even just stopping to help pick something up at a grocery store, asking someone who is by themselves to play at recess, or just a smile is a great start. These are things that don’t require or cost any money but will be a start making the world a better place immediately..
Saving the Animals
Last year when I was teaching 3rd grade, I had two amazing students team up to make a difference by creating awareness of a cause that they are deeply passionate about. During our persuasive writing unit, one girl wrote her essay on Saving the Dogs of India which she noticed were not being treated well after a recent trip to India with her family. After completing her essay, she posted it to our class Seesaw page (A digital portfolio app for schools). Another girl in our class read the essay and was moved by the topic. She began asking questions and soon enough, the two girls teamed up to form a club and they got about 30 members of our school to join in their pursuit.
While I was very impressed and happy that these girls were excited and passionate about making a difference, there was only a few weeks left in school so I kind of just expected it to die off. The amazing thing was, it didn’t stop there. Using Seesaw, the two girls commented back and forth all summer to each other about their plans to grow their club and ideas to make a difference. They created a very professional website (tosavetheanimals.wordpress.com) that I highly recommend you check out for yourself.
I moved to a different school this year so I know longer see these girls but it has been one year since they started their club and they are still going strong! They now have 22 published blog posts and last I heard from them they were talking to different ice cream shops in the area to try to host a fundraiser to raise money to pay for dog’s shots. I have no doubts that these girls will continue to make a positive impact on the world.
I also can’t help but to think that in this process, they have learned some valuable skills that will really help them in the “real world!” …I’m just glad they didn’t wait until they got there to start!
Save the Animals Video
Quotes to Use with Your Class:
- “Helping one person may not change the whole world but it can change the world for one person.”
- “Let your smile change the world but don’t let the world change your smile.”
- “You were born to make an impact on the world.”
- “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
- “You don’t need a reason to help others.”
- “Leave the world a better place than you found it.”
Feature Image Credit: http://preach-it.deviantart.com/art/Impact-Your-World-272764910 Under Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/