The back to school season is an ideal time to talk about changemaking. Students and teachers return to school with energy, excitement, and optimism. Only a week before before sending my own kids back to school, I participated in an Education Teach-In at Politics and Prose Bookstore, which was my opportunity to act as a changemaker, and encourage the enthusiastic audience to become changemakers themselves on behalf of children.
The three participants in the Teach In were asked by the moderator – Valerie Strauss from The Washington Post – to identify and provide a solution for the biggest challenge facing our education system. My answer was quite simple: the biggest challenge is compliance and the solution is engagement-based pedagogy. The solution is empowering students to be changemakers. The solution is empowering teachers to be changemakers. The solution is Inspired Teaching.
Our current education system does not empower students to become changemakers. In fact, usually, it does the exact opposite, sending a clear message to students that their voices do not matter and that their agency is minimal or non-existent. This is particularly true in no-excuses schools, which have proliferated and flourished in underserved communities. Particularly now, at this moment in time, we cannot afford to teach our students – especially our most vulnerable students – that their compliance is the most important quality they have to offer.
Teachers must also be changemakers. They must create, cultivate, and advocate for engagement-based pedagogy in classrooms, schools, and communities, and instill the same commitment to changemaking in their students. This changemaking mindset must become prominent in every school, because without it children will be unprepared to lead courageous conversations, tackle complex problems, and create a more equal world.
As the new school year starts, think about the children in your life, and more broadly, think about all of the children in our country. Think about what they experience in their day. Are they joyful and challenged? Are they taught to be curious, brave, autonomous? Do they feel valued, that their feelings are important, that their voice matters? Are they taught to think for themselves? If the answer to these questions is anything but a resounding yes, then I encourage you to join us in advocating for change in education.
There are many ways for you to advocate for engagement-based pedagogy in schools. You can talk with your local school board or county councilmembers. You can talk with principals about what the school does to elevate student voice and agency. You can support the work we’re already doing with teachers in and around DC. But before any of that, you should see this engagement-based model in action. You should experience what learning looks like when every student has an Inspired Teacher. We’re hosting visits the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School on September 27, October 18 and November 29. You can learn more and RSVP here. We hope to see you there!