Who Is Your Champion?

School Children in Physical Education ClassOriginally published May 11. Today I publish again, in honor of Dr. Rita Pierson, a great loss to the education community. Her speech inspired so many on the opening of the first education TED talk live on TV. Please see her speech below. Thank you Rita.

According to Michele McNeil of EdWeek: "Not since the battles over school desegregation has the debate about public education been so intense and polarized, observers say, for rarely before has an institution that historically is slow to change been forced to deal with so much change at once."

All levels of education, from preschool through higher education have been affected in some manner. Institutions are dealing with rapid changes, new demands, policies, and levels of technology not seen in years.

Our system may be behind, in a chaotic state of flux, however, one thing remains constant: our kids need us now and in the future, and we must never lose sight of this fact.

There are many things I still want to learn about education. However, there are some things that I do know that will forever be a staple of measurement for true student learning. These outcomes for effective education include: relationships, knowledge, awareness, problem solving, higher-level thinking skills, curiosity and wisdom.

It is imperative that we focus on relationships-the bonds that keep us going, in spite of all environmental influences.

Children are born with a natural wonder about life and a special curiosity filled with "why" questions. They are all naturally creative, unique and have an electric energy adults crave. We need to keep this energy and curiosity alive, embrace it, and guide students to their highest learning potential.

We need to follow both new and former practices while combining the skills of the modern era to ensure they are successful for the long road and challenges ahead.

This list provides an overview of the things students require to be successful. They need:

  • The basics (food, shelter, clothes)
  • A champion-someone who believes in them and is there for the long haul
  • To feel safe in school
  • A place that allows them to create, wonder, think, question, ask, make mistakes, and fall, only to rise taller and stronger
  • To know they are somebody who was born to do good in the world
  • A school environment where the culture is calm and peaceful
  • An effective teacher who cares about their success
  • To feel they are part of something important
  • To understand that school is their job now, while it prepares them for their future
  • Relationships in their school, including friends, teachers and administrators
  • To know that hard times are temporary and good days are simply waiting to be discovered
  • To understand the big picture and reasoning behind school
  • To know that school is a journey that does not end, but rather, turns into  life-long learning
  • To feel that they are part of the learning and discovery process along with their teacher and peers
  • To know that no question, statement or idea is dumb and it is okay to take risks by sharing their knowledge and wonder with the world
  • To know they are loved

Schools are complex places filled with culture, diversity, competition, and problems that cannot be solved overnight. However, the basis and basics of any positive environment begins with our relationships and how we treat one another. Getting back to the basics of relationships, respect, compassion and honesty along with the use of technological tools of the modern era can and should be done.

As Dr. Rita Pearson states so eloquently below, "All kids need a champion." Please watch for honesty, wisdom, inspiration and a great laugh.

Who is your champion?

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Watch Rita Pierson: Build Relationships With Your Students on PBS. See more from TED Talks Education.

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