“It is not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely. Leo T. Buscaglia
Action FROM learning is something a learner chooses to do because of what they are learning or have learned. This type of action is a spark ignited by passion. Action FROM learning ranges from smaller scale actions taken by a learner such as changing something they personally do to make the world better (e.g. turning the tap off when brushing teeth) to larger scale action that involves others and requires a plan to follow through (e.g. organizing a clothing drive for a homeless shelter). Action FROM learning happens because something the learner was exposed to triggered them to take the “what” of their learning beyond the 4 walls of the classroom and out into the wider world. The learning brought the learner to the realization that they have a responsibility and that they can DO something about it.
Action FROM learning needs to be modelled, encouraged and fostered within a school community. Learners need to understand intrinsically that action is a process and that when they engage in a cycle of action, not only are they doing something to make a difference for others, they are also creating an opportunity for personal growth and reflection. This process can be simple as a realization and making a simple lifestyle change, or it can be complex and involve many steps. Each time a learner chooses, acts and reflects, he/she deepens his/her understanding of themselves and their connection to others. When a learner completely follows through with an action thought or idea, whether it’s as simple as holding the door open for someone or as complex as organizing a large scale fund raiser, their action helps them to become a better person by helping others or the world. Ultimately they help themselves as their own outlook on the world changes or shifts as they create impact around them.
For the last 10 years I have had the privilege of mentoring young learners through the action cycle. I don’t see myself as a teacher of action, but as a mentor. I am there to help big and small dreams become reality by supporting students as they seek to change the world and create impact. Kids are big dreamers and when they are moved to take action, especially larger scale action, they are as Craig Keilberger calls them, “shameless idealists”. Sadly, reality has the power to crush even the biggest idealists. As an action mentor, I support the idealists in also being realists so that they don’t give up on their action dream, because there is no greater reward than seeing the action process through with the knowledge that change was instigated either near or far.
Critical to action FROM learning is that it connect to an ISSUE. Taking meaningful action is not about an event, which is a common pitfall to look out for when mentoring students through the action process. So many kids come to me saying, “I want to have a bake sale” or “I want to sell bracelets.” My questions back to them are always “What issue is it that you care about/are passionate about? WHY do you want to do this?/Why is this important to you?” Those 2 questions have resulted in major shifts in the culture of action in the two schools where I’ve taken on the action mentor charge. Students no longer come to me with an “action event”. Instead, they come with a cause or issue and the action is born out of their passion for that issue. Most frequently, the issue connects to an issue they’ve explored in class or to something they’ve talked about at home, or even something they saw in the newspaper/news/on-line. Once the issue is clearly defined, then we explore the “doability” factor: “Is this action possible/doable? What is our goal? How can we make it happen? What might get in our way? What do we need? What is our timeline? How much support will we need from others? How much education/awareness raising needs to be done to gain the support of our peers’, teachers and/or parents? Are we willing to change our plan if we need to to ensure this action happens?” A nice byproduct about supporting and mentoring action in this way, is that students always raise awareness first because they naturally want to educate others about what they care about. For larger scale action, awareness within the bigger community is paramount to the overall success of the action.
When I mentor students through an action plan, we work under the following guidelines:
Central/Big Idea: Understanding issues that affect us, our community and our world can help us to take meaningful action to make a difference.
Lines of Inquiry:
- Issues affecting us, our community and our world
- Working together to make a difference
- Planning for, implementing and reflecting on action/service
CHOOSE: What (issue) will we take action for? (local or global?)
ACT: How will we achieve our action goal? What steps will we take?
REFLECT: How successfully did we achieve our action goal?
These guidelines help us to share a collective focus and ensure that the action our students follow through with has a clear and meaningful purpose and that it is highly effective. Successful action leads to more action – it becomes a part of the values of the school community and it is celebrated and honoured as an important part of the learning process.
Stay tuned for the next post: an exploration of “Action FOR Learning”