I spent the past week speaking to trustees, superintendents, teachers, parents, and most importantly, students. Working with all levels of school in a week, gives you a really interesting perspective, but I learned a great deal in working with a few thousand students this week. Here are some of my takeaways:
- Let’s quit telling kids what they shouldn’t be doing, and try to push them to think about what they can do. It was anti-bullying week in Ontario, and overhearing some students walking into my session, they were not excited about having to listen to me for an hour. I asked them why, and they had said that they had heard the “cyberbullying” talk a million times. I asked the one student was to give me a chance, and have an open mind. I talked about “Digital Leadership, and at the end of the talk, he had come up to thank me because he knew what I was saying was different. I did talk about “cyberbullying” for a part of my discussion with students, but I really want to communicate to them is that they don’t have to wait for the future to do something amazing. The world is at their fingertips and they have opportunities that we never did. They should take advantage of this fact and I try to show them things that they can do. How excited would you be if you heard someone talk about all the things you shouldn’t do?
- Kids are already meeting “strangers” online. One of the questions that I ask students this week is how many of them had met someone online first, and then met them offline. It was easily over half (that admitted it). This is a reality of the world and I would say that the majority of my friends now are people that I have met through Twitter or my blog first. Think about it…How many of you have a friend that has married someone they met online? It is becoming normal, and could become the norm soon enough.This would be even easier for students now to meet someone online. If you have friends connected through Twitter, and one of them is on a community team, how hard is it for you to connect with a “friend of a friend” now through social media? One of the suggestions that I give to families is that if a kid wants to meet with someone, that they have to video chat with that person before with a parent in the room. If the person refuses, then they don’t meet. We have to start talking to kids about how being safe, not banning the connections that many of them will make anyway, and many of us see value in.
- Little knowledge leads to little credibility. One of the conversations that I had with a student was how sick she was of hearing from adults that don’t even use social media on how kids should act. It makes sense doesn’t it? Many educators get frustrated on hearing solutions on how to “fix” education from people that have never taught, or have limited time in schools. How different is that then what the student is describing? If we are going to talk with kids about how they are connecting online, it better come from a place of experience, as opposed to theoretical situations.
- Believe kids want to do great things. This is a simple one. The loudest applause I received this week was after a student asked me, “Why do you do what you do?” When I responded that it is because I really believed in students and what they can do, and my focus was to do everything in my power to empower them, the kids gave me the loudest ovation I had received all week. This is a truth for me. I try to start from a positive place in every first interaction that I have with people and try my best to communicate that with them. I give trust until I am taught otherwise. Kids are less likely to do great things if they feel you don’t believe in them. They could break your heart but I guess that is a risk that I am willing to take.
Although I could go on and on what I learned from students, I was just honoured to have the opportunity to connect with so many students this week. They know a lot more than we give them credit for and if we listen, they can teach us quite a bit.