How You’re Changing the World

Why do we put ourselves through it all?  The long hours, the stress, the students who “don’t listen”, and all the thankless effort.  Our students are with us for a year, maybe two, and then they move on to some other teacher – sometimes at a completely different school on the other side of the world.  We invest our blood, sweat, and tears and see very little in the way of immediate returns.  Of course, we see them grow, we see the progress as they become better writers, mathematicians, artists, scientists – and for many of us that is enough, we can sit back at night with a glass of wine and know that we’ve made a difference in the world and improved our students’ lives.  

A common story in my hometown was that kids went to college and came back to the area with a comfortable job and happy life.  You’d bump into your fifth grade teacher at the grocery store and explain to YOUR kids that, “this was daddy’s teacher when he was in fifth grade.”  I’m sure that still happens in good old Waukesha, Wisconsin but in the world of international teaching it’s pretty rare to just bump into your former students.

So thank goodness for the internet, it allows us to stay connected to friends, family, and former colleagues and students all over the world.  We’re able to “bump into” our former students as they do amazing things.  In 10+ years I’ve met, taught, and coached an awful lot of students from all parts of the world, literally – Texas, Italy, China and now Ecuador.  Every once in awhile, seemingly when I need it the most, the world sends me a message.  I want to share a couple with you to give you a taste of some of the things YOUR former students are doing out in the world.  These two young adults are certainly special but they aren’t unique, they represent their peers.

I taught Xien during my first year as a teacher in Houston, Texas while I was there through Teach For America.  For almost 10 years he and I had been out of contact, until Facebook recommended us to be “friends”.  As soon as we connected, Xien shared an article with me.  He has become a successful programmer while studying at Texas Southern University.  Some of the work he’s done while working in a summer internship has helped NASA, incredible stuff.  Xien is literally changing the world.

This morning as I was still half asleep I was scrolling through Twitter and the #Learning2 hashtag when I saw this video.  The Learning2 conference (coming to Quito in October) is happening right now at the American School of Milan, where I formerly taught 5th grade.  As I was scrolling down I saw the name of one of my former students mentioned in a Tweet, turns out she presented a TED-style talk at the opening of the conference.  It was AMAZING.  She stood up at an educational conference and told everyone what was wrong with the current educational model of stressing students out and “unbalancing” them during their high school years.  Brilliant.  

These are just two small examples of some of the amazing things our students get themselves into after they leave our classrooms.  Whether you teach Pre-K, fifth grade, or high school your students are going on to do amazing things.  What you’re doing right now might just be the driver for their success.  What you’re doing with these kids today may, literally, help them change the world in the future!  

Today could be the day you change someone’s life forever…are you ready?