Experienced Teachers’ Advice

I am new to my community – a stranger, if you will.  As a fledgling member of the community, I need and want to hear the stories of the children and my colleagues, the history of the people and the place. One spectacular opportunity afforded me is to hear the same story from multiple perspectives.  I value the luxury of learning and seeing through multiple lenses.

Through which lens do I choose to look at my surroundings?  On what do I choose to focus?  How do I practice seeing bright spots?  How often do I focus on success rather than struggle?  How do I make the practice of bright-spot-seeking a habit?  Do I teach this habit to others?

For our children, school begins tomorrow. What will they want and need from us, their teachers?  How will we offer feedback as they learn and grow?  Is it our habit to highlight their success or their struggle?  When we mark student papers, do we “award credit” or do we “take points off?” Literally, what do we mark?  What is our habit? What are we teaching through our habit?

How do our actions impact the lens through which our learners see themselves? How does our habit impact the way we see our learners? I am learning to make a point to change my lens to see with different clarity.  What does the story say if I change my view? What do we learn as we try on a new lens?

“I wonder. . . How might we. . . “

Five simple words, but they contained power. Today was a special day. I had taught undergraduates for decades, but never high school students. These students at Woodward Academy were about to embark on a year-long process to discover, design and implement solutions to on-campus sustainability challenges. My challenge in the next 40 minutes? To introduce the environmentally sustainable world-view to them and then inspire them towards action. But first I had to present a working (and useful!) definition for sustainability. Anyone who has ever Googled “sustainability” knows that there are a myriad of definitions for it.

I realized, at its essence, there are three principles to understanding sustainability: 

1. The intersection of the three E’s – environment, equity and economics

2. An intergenerational timeframe

3. The interconnectedness of a personal, regional, and global points-of-view

After working through this definition with the students, I sent them outside to begin applying this worldview onto what they observed and complete sentences beginning with “I wonder. . .” When they returned, we generated an entire board filled with “I wonder” statements. Next, we channeled this curiosity about their world into statements that could begin framing these issues into problem statements students might be able to solve, beginning with “How might we. . .“.  The board quickly filled with “How might we” statements. The students’ positive energy in the room felt incredible. Five small words, with power to change the world?  I hope so.