Wendy Morales is one of a group of TED-Ed Innovative Educators who got together at our recent TEDSummit conference. She files this report, which we’re cross-posting from her own blog, The Risk-Taking Educator:
When asked what I do for a living, sometimes I catch myself saying, “I am just a teacher.” It’s as if I am apologizing for not being something greater, like a doctor, scientist or engineer. That single word “just” reveals the extent to which I have been affected by how little our society, in general, values teachers. Deep down, I know the work I do is important, and I am fortunate to work in a community that does encourage and celebrate teachers. Unfortunately, most educators are not given many opportunities to develop a voice and sense of empowerment, resulting in frustration or feelings of inferiority. I myself have been guilty of these feelings at times in my career, resulting in some confusion as to how I see myself professionally.
These occasional feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt were squashed the minute I was chosen as one of the thirty TED-Ed Innovative Educators. From the moment I met the exceptionally warm and talented TED-Ed team and my equally amazing cohort members, I knew that great things were about to happen. For the past few months, we have explored incredible TED and TED-Ed resources, shared ideas and raised questions that will undoubtedly improve our school communities. I felt valued and heard. This past week, we finally came together in Banff, Canada at TED Summit 2016. While I could never put in writing (at least not in a blog post of reasonable length) everything I gained from this opportunity, I would like to share my biggest takeaways from this experience and how it helped me redefine my role as a teacher.
Intimidation Turns Into Pride
When you are just a teacher, it is easy to feel intimidated by all the geniuses at TED. I found myself eating meals and engaging in conversation with famous authors, social activists, scientists, artists, etc. When these incredible people looked at my name badge and saw that I was an educator, each one asked me about my career and seemed genuinely interested and appreciative of what I do. Even after I rudely interrupted the Head of TED, Chris Anderson, while he was trying to answer a text, the first thing he said to me after seeing my name badge was, “Thank you for all you do.” Wow. As each day passed, more and more people approached all of us in the cohort, wanting to know more about the TIE program. I can honestly say that I have never felt so proud to be a teacher.
Power in Numbers (and Ideas!)
When you are just a teacher, it is easy to feel alone and overwhelmed. But as a TIE, I know have a community of people who I now think of as family, supporting everything I do. At TED Summit I found professional soulmates (i.e. Jennifer Ward) who share my same passions and will certainly become future collaboration partners. Even more importantly, though, I found like-minded educators with ideas, experiences and perspectives different from my own. These talented educators from various parts of the world have opened my mind to limitless possibilities that I never would have imagined. I learned something from every single member of my cohort, and the best part is…this learning and collaborating has just begun! Together, we are going to make things happen!
While I reflected on my experiences at TED Summit, I realized that I will never again refer to myself as just a teacher. The single word “teacher” doesn’t even do justice to any educator I know. We are all so much more than that. As I think about who I am, I can now say with pride that I am problem-solver, change maker, collaborator, teammate, writer, creator, leader, history nerd, tech-lover, global citizen and a TED-Ed Innovative Educator! It is my wish that more educators will come to this realization and understand that we all have “ideas worth spreading.”
Thank you to the TED and TED-Ed teams, my TIE cohort (the “TIE Fighters”) and the other inspirational people I have met on this exciting journey. You have not only helped me redefine who I am as a teacher, but also who I am as a human being. Can’t wait for this journey to continue!