An IS parent approached me at Open House and remarked that this is the worst he has ever seen the state of public education. As I was about to readily agree, I looked over at my students gathered by the IS tree. Many were just hanging out with their friends, but a few were waiting for me to collect their proceeds from the Pancake Breakfast ticket sales. "No," I responded, to the surprise of both of us. "This is the best that it has ever been. "In the case of my students," I elaborated, "large class sizes, limited supplies, and the economic strife in their personal lives has led them to take action. This has all manifested in a program called IS Ambassadors."
I have been reflecting upon this conversation for a week now, and decided to share it with my students at our club meeting today. "Look at the number of people in this room!" I exclaimed. "And the wait list is growing daily. Everyone wants to be a part of this experience. Our current budget stands at $5,643.17. That will afford our students the opportunity to do things they never thought possible, such as going on a college tour. This is all due to your hard work; you made it happen." The students broke out into applause.
The School of International Studies is a microcosm of society at large. When a group of people become dissatisfied and/or frustrated about something that really matters to them, they can become discouraged and apathetic or they can be the initiators of change. One reason ISA has evolved at a logarithmic pace is because students are yearning for outlets for dealing with the multiple forms of deprivation and inequities they witness on a daily basis. Although most students are not looking at the big picture right now, I can see it. Gen Y-Not? will be better off for having experienced these tumultuous times and attempting to drive these social changes within our club, our school, and our community. These students will not be complacent in their future careers and endeavors. They will know how to advocate for themselves. They will know how to define their goals, mobilize quickly and work as a team to achieve arduous tasks. They will be comfortable with spontaneity, adversity, and diversity.
As I am writing this, I glance at the bookcase in my office and notice a binder entitled "Life Skills Training: High School Teacher's Manual." I can't envision a program in the country that empowers students to identity their needs and collectively meet them in a more positive manner than this student-designed program called ISA. Therefore, I view this time as the height of my career as an educator, witnessing major shifts in public education which are catalyzing students to take ownership over their present and future. Indeed, in many ways, things have never been better.