What is the purpose of a school? Are schools the training ground for college or careers or just life in general? Are they free day care centers? Are they places where young people come to expand their minds, express themselves, and learn to communicate peacefully with others? Or are they places where children are forced to conform, perform, and blend in? Different people might have different answers, but—as a future educator—I firmly believe that schools should be places of exploration, enrichment, engagement, and wonder. Schools should be a community, a foundation, a safe base from which students discover their world and their roles within it. Schools should feel like a second home to students and should reflect the cultures and ideas of the diverse student populations they serve. Schools should be dynamic, exciting, challenging, and encouraging. A school’s purpose, in fewer words, is to provide the support and stimulus that children need to thrive.
What, then, is the role of a teacher? Teachers are guides, companions, critics, muses, support systems, mentors, models, confidants, and managers. They are inspiring, challenging, empathetic; they are diverse; they are iconic. Every person has had a teacher, whether they went to private or public institutions or were home-schooled; and most everyone has had that “one” teacher, that lovely individual who brings out the best in people and changes lives in small, but meaningful ways. Teachers are deliverers of information, but they are also charged with training youth to think critically, to communicate in a diverse world, to express themselves in different ways, to be creative, to be practical, to be efficient, and to dream.
The role of each student in the learning process is to be front and center—to show up, open up, and dive in. Students should be encouraged to take an active role in their education. They should help decide their own trajectory through exploration and discovery. They should strive to uncover their passions, to hone in on their strengths, and to identify the areas in which they most need support. These endeavors should, of course, be assisted by their teachers, their parents, their school, and their community at large, but they should be taught to realize their own power and control in the process. We live in a society that values independence almost to a fault, so this is a skill that will never depreciate. It is important, however, that students also become active participants in their school communities. In our ever-changing, increasingly diverse world, the ability to work with and learn from people of diverse backgrounds is almost a necessity. It is imperative that students treat one another with respect and discover the value of a multicultural world. Students can learn so much from one another and this social education can be just as important and life changing as the knowledge they acquire in the classroom.
As an aspiring teacher, it is my great pleasure to believe that schools are communities and that teachers are igniters of the passion to learn and that students are the heroes of their own thrilling adventures. And if the world isn’t yet exactly as I have painted it in this manifesto, then I sincerely pledge to help make it so.