The Idea: Develop Your Superpower
One of the greatest gifts we can have as individuals is to find a sense of purpose in our lives and do something that we love. I believe everyone has a superpower; some find it earlier than others, but eventually we all find it if we search for it.
As educators, our superpower should be our ability to make each child feel that they belong, that they matter.
Our superpower is to let our students know that the school they go to is in fact Their school and that they have and should have an active role in Their school, that they can have an impact on teaching and learning, on Advisory and wellbeing programs, and more.
Our superpower is to inspire and encourage them to become the change they want to see, which often starts with their own community- Their school.
Oftentimes, we design, create, and map programs and policies that implement best practices in student wellbeing and the students whom the programs are designed for are not even at the table or given a voice.
What if we could create a space where we listen to, honor, and elevate students’ voices?
The Implementation: A Call to Action
Elevating students’ voices in our teaching is an inclusive practice that can only empower students to thrive and enjoy learning as they feel a sense of belonging. It’s creating an opportunity for them to become active learners and contributors to their own learning and it’s building a strong sense of community and belonging where we can actually learn from one another.
In the spirit of listening and elevating student voices, TIE is creating a “Dear Teacher” series to designate a space to have these voices heard. The purpose of this new series is to create a respectful, solution orientated platform for student voices to be amplified into positive change. Students from around the world can write anonymous letters to unnamed teachers giving light to what they wished teachers knew, how they can feel more seen, or how they believe their learning experiences can be improved by using the following criteria:
Title: Dear Teachers
Purpose: To inform and suggest solutions to implement positive changes.
Prompts: What would you like to see happening in your school or classroom? What steps or processes would work for you? What ways could your education be geared towards your needs?
Content: No teacher or school names should be mentioned.
Encourage your students to think about what would benefit them in the development of their education, big picture ideas or small everyday practices, and let them write freely. Email the submissions to email@example.com with your country name only and the subject "Dear Teachers".
Remember that the purpose of these letters is to inform and raise awareness on something that you believe is not necessarily known. It is not a space to complain and criticize without offering a solution or an idea that you think might work for you. Your voice matters and we look forward to reading and sharing your views.
The History: The Beginning of a Journey
Years ago, I started the habit of having my students evaluate the units, the content, and its delivery at the end of each unit, anonymously or not, and let me tell you, their responses have been one of the best professional developments I’ve had.
The inclusion of students’ ideas and practices led to the beginning of the “Dear Teachers” initiative. Students were complaining about the lessons and schools. So, they began to write to teachers anonymously to express their thoughts in a respectful manner. If “your purpose is to nag and complain without offering solutions that you believe will work for you, then I won’t listen” and neither will anyone else. Through this initiative, they were challenged to find their voices and create solutions.
The letters that I have gathered in the last 8 eight years have been a great lesson for me as an educator, a springboard for the MYP workshops I have the privilege to offer, and a great professional development for teachers who receive this. Here are some extracts from these letters:
"I respect you and I thank you for all the work you do. I understand when you want us to try harder and do better, and maybe I should. I definitely do it in some subjects where I see that the teacher makes me want to try and be better. But when you're not trying, and all we do is filling in the blanks, reading books that are not very interesting, why should I try harder?"
"I understand you don't get to choose the books guess your boss does, but why don't you make it interesting for us? I had once a teacher who made Shakespeare the coolest writer ever. When others were complaining about reading Shakespeare, I was saying: "Dude, Shakespeare is awesome" because my teacher made us love Shakespeare in ways I couldn't have imagined! We rapped on Shakespeare, we did drama, we spoke to eachother in Shakespeare language, which was hilarious and until today I really fancy old English and I did say to my girlfriend: " I give thee my love, thou art mine". Shakespeare made me a romantic guy and a poet.
What I am trying to say dear teachers is that I want to behave in class, I want to listen, I want to focus, but it's really hard to do when all you're focusing on is trying not to sleep, my brain is already struggling with one major thing, so please help me to get interested in your class. I really do want to love literature again, because at this point, I am drowning."
"I hate learning by heart, I think it hurts my brain. I don't mind working hard on a project even if it gets me to sleep only 5 hours a day, as long as I am creating something, I am applying the theories and I am building something because that's when I am learning the most and that's when I finally understand why we are learning the theories; I get the point."
"I used to think Biology was the most boring subject until I got to the grade I am in and I had Mr. X. He will get up, sleep on the floor, make us move, put himself in very awkward positions to teach us how the body functions. We watched Grey's Anatomy to understand the heart functions and the effect of andrenalines. We watched the Biggest Loser to understand the metabolism function. He never took himself seriously and made mistakes sometimes, which he would correct, but by doing so, and he's not even aware, he allowed us to make mistakes and try and even if we weren't sure, and I can't tell you how fast the lesson goes."
"I want to thank you for everything you've done for us. Teaching is one of the hardest work in the world. If you do it the right way, I don't mean that there is a right way of doing it or a wrong one, but if you are liking what you are doing, surely you're doing it the right way. Therefore, I am just asking you to have fun and be happy while you're teaching something to me. Beacuse we can see those who are happy to be here with us and those who are not and we feel it when we are in your class. being happy is actually more difficult than anything, I know, but if you want me to be ready for every test, participate and be ready to learn everyday something new, I want you to be happy first. Really!"
Doline is a member of the TIE Editorial Committee. She has been working as a MYP/DP teacher and university lecturer for fifteen years in Sweden and The Netherlands. She is also a Language Acquisition MYP consultant, a DEI workshop facilitator, an ECIS MLIE (Multilingual Learning in International Education) committee member, a CIS accreditation evaluator, is part of the WomenEdLux steering committee, and a member of AIELOC and ISS Diversity Collaborative. Apart from her passion for language learning, she is a great advocate of students’ voices and works at amplifying them by helping to create a culture of imperfection and vulnerability in schools.