The past few days I’ve spent at a student leadership retreat with members of our Student Council. We’ve spent time learning about the importance of leading with integrity, honesty, and purpose.
I have to admit the past week I’ve been struggling with this whole teaching thing. PBL/inquiry is tougher than it should be at times. You can’t always figure out what works right away. So often you feel like you’re floundering around, wondering if you really have any idea what you’re doing. It makes you doubt your ability as a teacher.
During our last session last night, I wondered if I should be doing this teaching thing at all. Parts of it are not going well. I feel like I’m not making a difference. And I want to make a difference. I want to do something that matters. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only teacher who feels this way.
Shortly after the session ended, two of my students made a bee-line towards me. One of them looked at me and said,”I’ve decided that after I graduate I want to pursue social justice. I don’t know if that means I’ll go to school, or if I’ll just start helping people, but that’s what I want to do with my life.”
Okay, forget it. I make a difference.
Then they both looked at me and said, “We want to raise money for Invisible Children again.” One girl paused and then quietly said, “But the school won’t let us do it again.”
Nope. It won’t.
I looked at her and said,”We’ll find another way to do it.” Surprised they stated, “Really?”
Yep, really. And I’ll help.
What are we going to do? I have no idea. I don’t know where we’ll meet, what we’ll do or how we’ll achieve this goal. What I do know is that my students have found something they’re passionate about — something much larger than themselves that gives them a meaningful role to play in our society.
In August, four students, who were the core of our Schools for Schools campaign, had the privilege of being part of an advocacy conference hosted by Invisible Children in San Diego. During the four day event they heard from speakers such as Gary Haugen, the director of International Justice Mission, an organization that seeks to free people, around the world, from slavery.
That weekend, my students learned they are part of a global movement seeking change, and their contribution makes a difference.
While raising money for Invisible Children started out as a classroom activity, one year later it still captivates their hearts and their souls. How often does that happen in school? How often do our students find something to dedicate their lives to within the walls of a classroom?
I refuse to be an adult who does not support my student’s dreams. Not happening. Students need adults, who they care about, to believe and support them. And that’s what I plan to do.
So what does our year look like? In our English 20 class, we’re fighting human trafficking. We’re in the midst of creating a social media campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking in Canada. Then we’re hoping to join with classrooms across Canada to lobby the government to pass anti-trafficking legislation that actually matters. Legislation that helps abroad, convicts offenders, and offers hope to victims. There’s power in numbers; our student’s voices matter.
Outside of school, we’re hoping to raise $30,000, and this time, my students have some concept of how much money that is. They want to raise it anyways. Why? Because they’re brave. But also because it costs about that much to build a rehabilitation centre for child soldiers in Uganda.
During their time in San Diego, my students met kids whose lives had been changed by the kindness of strangers through this organization — kids who have been given a second chance at life.
I think school should be this risky, all-in, exhilarating, adventure; my students agree. We’ll see what happens.