Teaching tomorrow’s leaders

December 17, 2015

(Photo credit: Center for Inspired Teaching)

This piece – written by Aleta Margolis, Inspired Teaching’s Executive Director – was first published in Inspired Teaching’s December 2015 newsletter 

Imagine you could jump decades forward in a time machine and see that a student in your classroom was going to become a Nobel Prize winner, renowned brain surgeon, or artist. How would your teaching shift? You might listen a little more intently to his questions, ideas, interests, and concerns. You might not allow her to give up when she is struggling.

Inspired Teachers teach like this every day – helping students unlock their potential as leaders, innovators, and problem solvers – because students are capable of solving real world challenges and seizing real world opportunities. And because the need for this type of teaching is urgent.

I just returned from Istanbul where I spoke to educators and leaders at the Ashoka Changemaker Education Summit about a different kind of instruction that prepares students as changemakers. Addressing climate change, curing cancer, diminishing the threat of terrorism, resolving the vast inequities that characterize so many countries – these tasks will require creativity and perseverance. We must shift instruction away from rote learning and engage students in meaningful instruction that develops these skills. We must allow students to practice changemaking in our classrooms so they’re ready to do so beyond the school walls.

High school students in Inspired Teaching’s Real World History class are practicing the skills of historians and preparing to contribute to the field. Last week, they interviewed with local museums and historic sites to determine internship placements. Next semester, several Real World History students will work with the National Museum of American History to develop a museum tour from the teenage perspective. Others will make sure our history is not lost in the age of digital media by helping move content to online platforms.

By training all their peers in DC Public Schools, SCALE Teacher Leaders are ensuring that students in every K-12 science classroom in the District engage with real world problems. One of our Teacher Leaders has designed a project about environmental pollution that will be taught to every student through the DCPS Cornerstones initiative. Fifth grade students will create and use maps of their schoolyards to investigate pollution around their schools. Then, the students will design plans to make the schoolyards more environmentally friendly by researching and proposing solutions.

Second graders at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School are already learning what it takes to be good citizens and leaders. After reading a biography about Abraham Lincoln, the students applied Lincoln’s principles of equality and brotherhood to their classroom and school by developing a policy to help their classmates get back up when they are hurt or fall down.

Teach as though every student will become the future President of the United States or pioneering entrepreneur – because they could. Give students the opportunity to be changemakers, and they will.

Aspire to become an Instigator of Thought and changemaker in the classroom? Learn more and apply today to be a 2016 Inspired Teaching Fellow.

September Inspired Teaching Institute

Teachers can’t control what happens between the time students wake up and when they arrive at school but they have a lot of control over what happens when students cross the classroom threshold. Participants in this fast-paced, idea-rich Institute will learn 20 different strategies for starting the school day!