A new year for me means reflecting on the previous year and looking forward to what’s ahead.
As I reflect, I think about an incredible opportunity that came my way. I was invited to apply to the TED-Ed Innovative Educator Program — a program started by TED-Ed, the education initiative of TEDTalks. The TED-Ed Innovative Educator Program is a year-long professional development experience that brings together educators from around the globe to discuss topics related to innovation in education.
A group of TED-Ed Innovative Educators at the TED Youth Conference. I’m on the far right.
I am now in my eighth month in the program and the experience has exceeded my expectations. There are currently 28 TED-Ed Innovative Educators from 11 countries — Indonesia, Cyprus, and South Korea, to name a few — who’ve come together to collaborate on innovation projects that will eventually be shared worldwide with educators and students.
As well as working on innovation projects, we had the opportunity to attend the TED Youth Conference in New York City, where we were immersed in professional development workshops. While attending the TED Youth conference, I learned about innovation in education from people at the forefront — inventors, scientists, and technologists — but I also learned about myself and my role as an educator worldwide. It was incredible to see how 28 educators from around the world (and with different perspectives) could come together, without judgment or stereotype, to understand each other, learn from each other, and contribute collectively.
After the conference, I returned to my classroom and delivered a passionate lesson about the importance of opening ourselves up to the perspectives of others in our world. We talked in detail about stereotypes, kindness and love, global awareness, hate crimes, and terrorism. I asked my students to think about our role in these global topics, and challenged each of them to think about the small things that they might be able to do on a daily basis that would contribute to love and kindness in our world.
My students have since had opportunities to practice their global citizenship skills. For example, my students used Skype to communicate with students at the International School of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I’ll continue to provide them with opportunities to think globally and discuss the worldwide issues they are passionate about by offering a TED-Ed Club for students at my school.
It’s become quite clear to me throughout my involvement in the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program that it’s up to us as educators — after all, we’re in schools and at the forefront — to help bring the world closer together. We can do it through programs like this one, programs that give us opportunities to practice our own global citizenship skills. And it’s then up to us to transfer the global citizenship skills that we’re learning to our students.
As I look back on 2015, and look forward to this current year, I’m both honored and humbled to think about the educators I’m fortunate enough to collaborate with face to face in our rural school district of Malone, New York, as well as the educators who make up my professional learning network across the globe. The TED-Ed Innovative Educator Program gives me an opportunity to make a difference on a global scale from within the walls of my very own classroom, in a small-town community of just 14,000 people tucked away at the Canadian border.
If you find yourself actively seeking innovative opportunities to inspire student curiosity, I highly recommend you consider filling out an application for acceptance into the next cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Educators, due by January 29, 2016. Please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter with questions regarding this program (@jenhesseltine).