If I want my students to take action, I daresay I need to take some myself. So what does "taking action" mean? This is a question our staff wrestled with over a weekend PYP workshop, giving up our Friday of teaching and our Saturday of leisure to grapple with and come to some conclusions about.
It's an absurd question in many ways since we take action in thousands of ways each day, physically and through our responses to stimuli, many of the obvious stimuli being our students, the people we come in contact with on a daily basis, our guilt and our obligations.
But does altruistic action and action coming from a place of wanting to make the world better really exist? And if it does, can we actively promote it? Can we push it? Can we do it model it ourselves without being patronizing or smug or feeling holier-than-thou?
The most obvious call to action in the coming weeks is probably helping the victims in the Philippines after the devastating typhoon, and there is no question that we should be doing this. This is necessary and we should give as we are able to the needs that we see and are able to support, but my pay check can't begin to save the world's problems. (Please, however, go to the link I have posted and see how sending money IS important and vital in times of disaster and crisis.)
The question remains, how can I take action in the here and now? Here's the list I came up with for myself as a teacher, a parent and as a friend:
I can inspire others to make a difference. I'm not a highly talented person, but this is one thing I am pretty good at.
I can provide information about what is happening in the world: helping students to think outside of their own personal universes. Teachers are obliged to do that, especially those of us who teach students old enough to cope with real-world issues.
I can play more with my kids - at home and at school!
I can give my time: to causes, to people, to writing about needs and informing, to just being present for people and being an active listener.
I can give my kindness and compassion to those who are in front of me right now.
I can be mindful: fully present in each moment.
I can make more of an effort to make authentic connections with people.
I can approach people with a lack of judgment and an attitude of acceptance for where they are now.
I can give my encouragement.
I can offer my high expectations and the means to help students meet them.
I can more consistently offer my positive energy.
I can clean up my local environment with my family.
I can make choices to not pollute by virtue of what I buy and don't buy and how I dispose of it.
I can make choices of what to eat or not eat by virtue of how it impacts the planet, its people and its creatures.
I can make decisions moment by moment to live mindfully, making choices that contribute to a kinder, safer, more loving community of people.
These are the gifts of action that I can give to my family and to my class and to my school. I am sure there are many more, but they are the ones at the forefront of my mind as I write tonight. Am I doing it consistently? Do I have pureness of heart in all of my actions all of the time? Of course not. I am a work in process; a teacher in process; a parent in process; a friend in process.
Small actions, small daily actions: they can make a difference that is more profound than we can know. We probably shouldn't know how profound our actions can be, in fact. It's better to just come from that place of wanting to make a difference, doing our best, and letting the results float on the current of life. We don't need to know the results of our action. We just need to know that we're doing our best.