“Everyone a Changemaker.” What can each of us do?

February 27, 2015

(Photo: Center for Inspired Teaching)

Written by Aleta Margolis, Inspired Teaching’s Founder and Executive Director, this piece first appeared in Inspired Teaching’s February 2015 newsletter. 

Yesterday, I was invited to the 2015 Ashoka U Exchange to speak on one of the conference’s opening panels, “Everyone a Changemaker.” What a great and challenging expectation for all of us. The conference brought together leaders in the higher education field who are ready and willing to think about their roles as changemakers in education. But what does that mean?

At Center for Inspired Teaching, being a changemaking organization means that we strive to shift the norm. We care deeply about the number of teachers we reach – and, in turn, the exponentially larger number of students we affect – but our programmatic work is in service of a broader goal. We aim to challenge the assumption of what school should look like, for every student and every teacher.

In last month’s piece, I described how good teaching offers students an opportunity to explore, and supports them in their quest to learn. This definition is a shift away from the conventional model, from teacher as dispenser of knowledge to teacher as Instigator of Thought™ – from student as passive receptacle to student as active partner in learning. This means that a classroom with an Inspired Teacher also looks radically different from the norm.

A classroom designed to build students’ independent thinking and analytical skills has signs of students making real world connections. For the high school students enrolled in Real World History, an Inspired Teaching course offered in partnership with DC Public Schools, drawing connections between textbooks and the world around them is a critical part of coursework. In one project, students learned about the Great Migration by interviewing elder Washingtonians who migrated from the South about their reactions to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, featured at the Phillips Collection.

A lesson designed to build students’ problem solving skills and content knowledge starts with a question. Eileen Pascucci, a Teacher Leader in Inspired Teaching’s SCALE program, started a biology lesson about osmosis and diffusion by asking her students what might happen to gummy bears soaked in a variety of solutions. Her students then planned and implemented their own investigations, imagining creative approaches to reveal scientific principles while building the skills of scientists: testing their hypotheses, learning where they went wrong and finding ways to refine their conclusions with each successive cycle.

This kind of teaching and learning isn’t just nice; it’s necessary. For students to be truly college- and career-ready, they need to learn how to think – and not have the thinking done for them. For students to thrive in school and in life, they need to be able to tackle the unforeseen challenges and opportunities of the future.

Everyone can be a changemaker in education, no matter your field. When you’re reading an article about education reform, talking with friends and colleagues about what good teaching looks like, or visiting your child’s classroom, consider whether there is evidence of Inspired Teaching. Help us change the national mindset of what school should look like.

If you are a current or prospective educator, join us. Applications are open for the Inspired Teacher Certification Program, through which aspiring teachers can earn their DC teaching license; and for our professional development programs for DCPS teachers: BLISS: Building Literacy through the Social Studies and SCALE: Science Curriculum Advancement through Literacy Enhancement. You can also bring Inspired Teaching to your school to lead school-wide transformative teacher training to build a better classroom experience for all students.

We are all changemakers. Together, we can shift the norm for all students.

August Inspired Teaching Institute

Meeting new classes for the first time can be daunting! So many names to learn, so many new personalities to get to know. Join us on Wednesday, August 10 as we share what we’ve learned through working with hundreds of new classes for more than 27 years.