This past month, I spoke to education innovators around the world about topics ranging from improving city schools to inclusivity to the increasing importance of film festivals in the digital age. The perspectives were manifold and brought a diverse range of opinions to the table. More than this, though, I found these stories inspirational. Which brings me to my topic of the month for our Top 12 Teacher Bloggers: What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom? Educator Beth Holland told me that to inspire, one must have empathy, and "remember what it felt like to struggle and then achieve the desired skill or concept." And indeed, learning to foster empathy was the take-home lesson from this month of conversations.
I started things off by talking with Mel Ainscow (Professor of Education at the UK's University of Manchester) about his new book, Towards Self-improving School Systems: Lessons from a City Challenge, which documents how ten years of research and work was used to shape a highly acclaimed city-wide improvement initiative involving over 1,100 schools. Ainscow's model proposes increasing school-to-school collaboration, and school-to-local community collaboration so that local businesses, universities and colleges, faith groups, academy sponsors and the media all develop working relationships with the school. These and many other innovative proposals shape this game changing book. If his advice is heeded, more changes will be made based on the advice of the people in the schools themselves, rather than outsiders or state programs. As he told me, "Policy makers must recognize that the details of policy implementation are not amenable to central regulation. Rather, these have to be dealt with by those who are close to and, therefore, in a better position to understand local contexts."
Our Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers gave advice on how to foster inspiration in the classroom. A novel idea came from Vicki Davis, who suggests consulting students for input on lessons and assignments. On a similar note, Richard Wells from New Zealand suggests that students be given more control over assignments. Wells points to how children become increasingly dependent on the aid of parental figures and that this is limiting their abilities to be independent thinkers. Others wrote that inspiration involves doing work outside the classroom, from keeping up healthy routines to participating in school administration.
I had the pleasure of connecting with the keynote speakers at the 2015 Global Diversity Leadership Exchange (Technology, Women and People With Different Abilities), which was held at the United Nations. Amir Dossal (Chairman, Global Partnerships Forum) told me, "diversity without inclusion is incomplete." This conference skillfully showed that diversity and inclusion can indeed go together. The key ingredient again is empathy. As Felita Harris pointed out, "The simplest way to implement strategies around inclusiveness is to first listen and learn about the people you are with every day. Once you get the intel, you can gauge the likes and dislikes, the tones and the pace of what people will be comfortable with."
Finally, I talked with S. Kwesi Rollins, the director of the leadership programs at the Institute for Educational Leadership, about his Chicago conference - Shaping our Future by Leading Together: Families, Schools and Communities. The conference brings together its participants (parents, families, counselors, teachers, principals and others) to explore successful community engagement strategies. Kwesi pointed out the two main engagement practices the conference seeks to highlight: "consistent activities that build trust between educators and parents/families; and activities linked to learning that boost the capacity of parents/families to both understand and support their children's learning goals and expectations."
I hope to see more and more conferences like these, offering real demonstrable possibilities to diversify the classroom, which I believe can also lead to positive changes in society overall. But this cannot happen without fostering empathy, which begins in the home. The newest and most important innovation on this front might be the National Parent Teacher Home Visit Project that Rollins spoke to me about. Initiatives that better bridge school inclusivity with home learning are starting to change society in a very constructive way.
For more information, visit cmrubinworld.com.
(Photo courtesy of Bobby Polanco for Brooklyn Film Festival)
(Photo is courtesy of Susan Cook)
Join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (U.S.), Dr. Leon Botstein (U.S.), Professor Clay Christensen (U.S.), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (U.S.), Dr. MadhavChavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (U.S.), Professor Andy Hargreaves (U.S.), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (U.S.), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Honourable Jeff Johnson (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. EijaKauppinen (Finland), State Secretary TapioKosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Lord Ken Macdonald (UK), Professor Geoff Masters (Australia), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (U.S.), Richard Wilson Riley (U.S.), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Professor Manabu Sato (Japan), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (U.S.), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (U.S.), Yves Theze (LyceeFrancais U.S.), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (U.S.), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.
The Global Search for Education Community Page
C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, "The Global Search for Education" and "How Will We Read?" She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld, and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.