A Middle Years Love Story

Why is it that on the news every day, they start by saying “good evening” and then proceed to tell us exactly why it isn’t?

Some of the most powerful statements and questions I’ve ever heard—like the one above—have come from the hearts, minds, and mouths of middle schoolers. Young adolescents think broadly, feel deeply, and care strongly.

I love reconnecting with students I previously taught in middle school. We reminisce about lessons we shared and marvel in the exceptional young people they have become in their own way.

The late and great Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is powerful, but when students who are close to finishing college take a walk with you down memory lane and recall parts of the curriculum you have long shelved, there’s something profound in that.

When I asked how they remembered everything from sand dunes to mega cities, one former student said, “Honestly, geography was the highlight of my schooling life. I used to see geography on my timetable and it wasn’t a chore. Because you loved it, we loved it. We fell in love with learning, and we fell in love with learning together.”

And it was in that moment that I realized we need to be telling love stories of teaching and learning … of our schools and lessons … of our profession.

If more people fell in love with school, imagine the support they could bring to the education of our young people.

Most things that move us make intrinsic sense to us. We are, after all, emotional more so than rational as human beings. We know that love stories trade on empathy. Their currency is awe, fascination, and wonder.

And inspiring people, particularly children, toward opportunity through stories is a powerful driver for action.

Systematic succession planning for outstanding teaching practice requires a network of professional learners from every part of the education ecosystem: people who share their practices with one another so that innovation, best practice, and concepts of next practice can be shared widely.

It is through this sharing of practices—our stories—that we have the chance to be great teachers. And every kid deserves a great teacher. Every school deserves brilliant leadership. Every community deserves outstanding schools.

I believe the most dangerous phrase in the English language is this, “Because we’ve always done it that way.” Let’s work together to build a narrative—a love story—of the kind of education we believe our young people deserve, and invite the community into this vision. We know the why, we’ve even got a great sense of the what, but I’m way more interested in the how.

Clive Thompson, who wrote about the courage to teach, talks about the need to be a community that innovates. When inventive people aren’t aware of what others are working on, the pace of innovation slows. If we had better visibility into one another’s work, we could collaborate more effectively or work more quickly or with greater insight.

I look forward to working together to unlock the collective genius of our PLN as we solve some of the biggest challenges facing middle level education. See you at the AMLE conference in October!

Summer Howarth, one of Australia’s most connected education influencers, is National Director of Learning for Education Changemakers. She is a teacher, leader, and education advocate with an unwavering belief in the potential of young adolescents and those who teach them. Summer is also an executive member of Adolescent Success and co-founder of Australia’s TeachMeet movement.

Join AMLE and Summer Howarth for the live webinar,

“Unleashing Teacher-led Innovation in the Middle Grades”,

September 2, 2015, 4:00 pm Easter

Meet Summer at AMLE2015 in Columbus, Ohio, where she is a keynoter for the Thursday, October 15 general session and presenter of featured sessions on Learner Agency and Teachers as Learning Designers.