‘Engage, Enlighten and Empower.’ Erin Gruwell
According to Microsoft® Encarta® 2009: innovation means ‘origination: the act or process of inventing or introducing something new; New idea or method: a new invention or way of doing something.’
I make bold to say that except teachers become innovative in their approach they cannot become effective and impactful. Innovation requires studying your pupils and the circumstances of the school and evolving a strategy that is peculiar to the pupils.
One of the teachers, who won the LEAP Africa award for teacher employed innovation to empower. She had just been transferred to a new public school. She got there to meet a set pupils that were completely unruly. She was teaching in a class one day and saw a pupil who scaled the fence into the school. The pupil, who was already late, was received from the fence by a teacher, who gave him high five and welcomed him heartily to school.
She felt there was something she could do. She rallied round her network and began to bring people to talk to the pupils regularly during their morning assembly. The talks lasted for ten minutes or thereabout. At the end of the session, the majority of the pupils had turned a new leaf. She was recognized by LEAP Africa in 2010 for her efforts at transforming the lives of the pupils.
Thinking out of the Norm or Box gives birth to innovation. To innovate, you must have in-depth understanding the people or the situation you are dealing with. You cannot create a strategy if you do not have a clear picture of the problem. Strategy is like remedy and understanding is like diagnosis.
For the teacher to update his or her understanding of the pupils he or she teaches, I advise that they to develop what I call the Frequently Asked Question Handbook on Contemporary Children Development Issues (FAQCCDI).
How does a teacher prepare this handbook? It is simple. It is by taking time to carefully study the trend of development and the contemporary issues in every area (value, development, sex, love and related matters touching on emotional development, pupils interpersonal relationship and rivalry, developing friendship with same and opposite sex, development of the spirit of enterprise, nation building, success principles and many more) of the life of our children and prepare a Frequently Asked Question Handbook on Contemporary Children Development Issues(FAQCCDI) to provide credible answers, which are subject to review every three months.
This is a document to which the pupils will have access from time to time depending on their ability to read. They will be told to make comments and observations, which will be considered for the next review. The idea is that if the handbook must address issues that concern them, their input must be considered. Part of the contents of the handbook may be issues that the teachers have dealt with working with the children. He or she may want to document the issues and the lessons learnt.
I remember the story of a woman, who developed a handbook for her relationship with her husband. She documented the issues she had with her husband and how they were resolved. She brought out the lessons. Fifteen years after she has been married she published her lessons and the book became an instant best seller. She was on the electronic and print media to tell her story.
Please do not forget this, it is very instructive: you are not only celebrated for what you do but how you do it and when you do it.
Meet our Models
Maria Montessori is best known for developing the Montessori Method of teaching young children. She introduced the method in Rome in 1907, and it has since spread throughout the world. The Montessori Method stresses the development of initiative and self-reliance by permitting children to do by themselves the things that interest them, within strictly disciplined limits.
Her strategy was a break away from the norm and a revolution that changed the lives of the world children forever. Margaret E. Stephenson in her forward to Maria Montessori’s ‘The Secret of Childhood’ submitted, ‘Dr. Montessori pointed out to us, that if we are to help life, we have first of all to study it. Studying it, means that we do not try to teach it, we learn from it instead. We learn from this living organism, the child, its needs and tendencies. Only when we know the child’s needs can we begin to learn how to cater for them.’
Stephenson concluded as follows: ‘in whatever country a child may be born is endowed with what Dr. Montessori called the ‘the absorbent mind…’ This absorbent mind does not only take language and reproduce it. It absorbs all that makes for the culture of the country and creates the native, the man of a particular time and place. Did the Frenchman learn to be French, the American, American, the Hindu, Hindu after he entered school? The absorption of culture, of customs, of ideas, ideals, of sentiments, feeling, emotions, religion, take place during the period of the absorbent mind, in the child from zero to six. This quite obviously is going on all over the world.’
Erin Gruwell/Ron Clark/Steve Mariotti
Erin Gruwell, whose story we had earlier told employed innovation to empower. She tagged her strategy, Empower, Enlighten and Empower. As we have earlier shown, the strategy worked.
So was Ron Clark, who chose to value the gifts and talents of every child in his class. As a matter of fact he rewarded them for what was not part of their curriculum. He helped the children’s confidence in themselves in no small way. He helped them to see that no gift or talent is superior to the other.
He destroyed rivalry, competition and jealousy among the students. They became one big family, united to help each other and advance their immediate world. He also combined education and entertainment to teach subjects that the children would not ordinarily want to learn. Steve Mariotti as you earlier learn employed the strategy of introducing entrepreneurship to his pupils and this became the saving grace, through which the pupils were rescued from lives of crime.
Salman Amin ‘Sal’ Khan
Salman Amin ‘Sal’ Khanis an American educator and the founder of the Khan Academy, a free online education platform and nonprofit organization.
From a small office in his home, Khan has produced 2871 videos elucidating a wide spectrum of academic subjects, mainly focusing on mathematics and the sciences. As of November 2011, “Khan Academy” had attracted more than 218,000 subscribers.
In late 2004, Khan began tutoring his cousin, Nadia, in mathematics over the internet using Yahoo!‘s Doodle notepad.When other relatives and friends sought his tutoring, he decided it would be more practical and beneficial to distribute the tutorials on YouTube where he created an account on 16 November 2006.Their popularity on the video sharing website and the testimonials of appreciative students prompted Khan to quit his job as a hedge fund analyst in late 2009 to focus on developing his YouTube channel, ‘Khan Academy’, full-time.
His videos attracted on average more than 20,000 hits each. Students from around the world have been attracted to Khan’s concise, practical, and relaxed teaching method.
Khan outlined his mission as to “accelerate learning for students of all ages. With this in mind, we want to share our content with whoever may find it useful.” Khan also plans to extend his “free school” to cover topics such as English and history. Programs are being undertaken to use Khan’s videos to teach those in isolated areas of Africa and Asia. He delineated his motives: With so little effort on my own part, I can empower an unlimited amount of people for all time. I can’t imagine a better use of my time.
Our last story here is that of Efren Peñaflorida, 28, who was recently honoured as the CNN hero of the year, 2009, a quintessential teacher and social worker in the Philippines.
For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida and his team of teen volunteers have taught basic reading and writing to children living on the streets. Their main tool: A pushcart classroom. Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, his Dynamic Teen Company recreates a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump.
Peñaflorida knows firsthand the adversity faced by these children. Born into a poor family, he lived in a shanty near the city dump site. But he says he refused to allow his circumstances to define his future. “Instead of being discouraged, I promised myself that I would pursue education,” he recalls. “I will strive hard; I will do my best.”
In high school, Peñaflorida faced a new set of challenges. Gang activity was rampant; they terrorized the student body, vandalized the school and inducted members by forcing them to rape young girls, he says. “I felt the social discrimination. I was afraid to walk down the street.”
He created the Dynamic Teen Company to offer his classmates an outlet to lift up themselves and their community. For Peñaflorida, that meant returning to the slums of his childhood to give kids the education he felt they deserved. “They need education to be successful in life. It’s just giving them what others gave to me,” he says.
Today, children ranging from ages 2 to 14 flock to the pushcart every Saturday to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English from Peñaflorida and his trained teen volunteers. “Our volunteers serve as an inspiration to other children,” he says. The group also runs a hygiene clinic, where children can get a bath and learn how to brush their teeth. Since 1997, an estimated 10,000 members have helped teach more than 1,500 children living in the slums. The organization supports its efforts by making and selling crafts and collecting items to recycle.
Through his group, Peñaflorida has successfully mentored former gang members, addicts and dropouts, seeing potential where others see problems.”Before, I really didn’t care for my life,” says Michael Advincula, who started doing drugs when he was 7. “But then Efren patiently dug me from where I was buried. It was Efren who pushed me to get my life together.” Today, Advincula is a senior in high school and one of the group’s volunteers. Peñaflorida hopes to expand the pushcart to other areas, giving more children the chance to learn and stay out of gangs. “I always tell my volunteers that you are the change that you dream and I am the change that I dream. And collectively we are the change that this world needs to be.”
Thank you for visiting…Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE…
Note: Excerpted from my forthcoming book: ChildProtectionCREED Handbook. Watch out…
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