Do you ever have those days when you have an idea that you want to try that you’re not too sure about but you decide to go for it anyways and then it works out brilliantly? Last week I did not have one of those days. I meant well. I’ve been thinking about how to teach my class about taking action – what it means, what it can look like, why people do it, etc. I didn’t want to just tell them what actions they should take and not have their thinking/feelings behind it. That’s not authentic action. I wanted them to be able to recognize things that they feel passionate about and the potential actions that they could take…to open up the possibilities. And really, I wanted them to begin to change the world.
First mistake? Expecting deep thinking to happen on a Monday afternoon. Timing is everything…when I saw the restlessness abounding everywhere I should have taken a rain check, but I decided to plow ahead.
Second mistake? I tried to combine two big ideas instead of just one. I should have focused on either what action is and how it can look different or what motivates people to take action…not both.
After talking about what ways action might be like an iceberg (a few interesting ideas thrown out) I decided to get them straight into doing something as the restlessness grew by exploring websites that showed kids taking action and asking them to think about what they were doing, why they thought they took the action and how. Too many things. My tired restless nine year olds managed to misunderstand what the action was that different people were taking (they thought a group was collecting mobile phones to give to the poor because they didn’t have one, not to recycle and keep out of landfills) and weren’t that into it.
Perhaps a third mistake was trying to start with the big idea and then come back to them in their lives, rather than starting with them to begin with. I don’t know.
But it did make me think about this idea of taking action and how hard it is to really get through what taking action is, why it is important and to inspire people to do it. Even with adults. I thought about how we want our students to feel this great motivation to change the world. Yes, children can change the world….but should we expect them to? (are we expecting more from them than from ourselves?)
And it made me wonder, why do some people see a problem and feel inspired to do something about it while others see that same problem and ignore it? Why do some 12 year old children save all of their money and get people to donate to create a well in Africa, why do some 9 year old children take a stand against bullying and so on? What makes people take action? I hunted around a bit to see what other people thought – I agreed with many of their thoughts that a lot of it has to do with whether you feel like you CAN make a difference or not. Whether you see your contribution as meaningful. I didn’t start taking any actions and get involved in social justice until I realized that I could actually make a difference and that it was a valuable one…even if only to one person. And I thought…I can work with that. We can look at how little things in our world make a difference…the things we are already doing. And so our class has started a discussion and board about what we are doing. They were a bit more inspired about that…and we have all sorts of little actions up (I’ll add a pic later on). Our board either needs to get bigger or we need to build more layers. It has helped me to see what they think action is and they have managed stretched my own understanding of action a bit with their thoughts. And we will continue to look around us for actions people in our own little world are taking – their home learning assignment? To ask someone about a time they have taken action (however small or big) – what did they do and why? I hope as we continue to recognize their current actions and the ones of those closest to them, that they begin to build that feeling that they CAN make a difference if they choose to.
I used to think that I needed to get my students to care and take action.
Now I’m beginning to think that perhaps I just need to get them to realize and think about what actions they are already taking and the value and difference that they are already making.