How Our Plans Came Together In the End
Think and wonder, wonder and think.”
The exact moment the creation of our space began was when these questions were asked; “What if, what would it look like if or can we?” If the space was never created, the conversation and discussion that came about in the group of young YSI advocates had already achieved the foundations of the space we hoped to create. It was never about the bricks, mortar or furniture but instead it was about hearing young people’s voices, ideas, dreams and aspirations for how they felt they could learn more and better. It was the creation first and foremost of an educational space in their minds that said we are not just passive participants but we are designers and creators of our own education.
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”
First and foremost to any guide out there; let our young people speak. Facilitate that environment of speaking, hearing, listening, teasing out, peer mentoring and critiquing. For some of us with high control issues there is that temptation to hand the project over a fait accompli were students will carry out a project as we see fit from beginning to end. YSI is not about the end result; the richness of it is the process.
“My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Take ownership of your YSI time and draw up a timeline. Everyone who teaches knows there is no such thing as a complete school year. School activities, speakers and initiatives can be scheduled at a moment’s notice often minimising your valuable time with YSI. Too often the subjects that YSI are anchored in are the very ones that are seen as the most flexible and changeable. There can be a perception that subjects such as SPHE, IT, CSPE and Religion are the least important and least valuable; ironically they are often the subjects our students carry with them for life. It is essential that you as the guide identify the value of YSI for your students. Share a visual of your timeline and YSI classes with all staff; whether it’s on Google docs or a staff noticeboard take ownership of that time and its’ significance for the learning of your advocates.
“You're off to Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
The mind-set in which we encounter any challenge is key to overcoming it. It’s important that the language of challenge is embraced. It’s not an obstacle; it’s something that allows us to develop our problem solving skills, our teamwork skills and ignites possibilities and imagination. Throughout the project there were so many challenges. The biggest one we encountered was digital skills or our lack of them. Our app concept was feasible and valuable but we simply didn’t have the skills to actualise it. Two of the students spent hours, days and weeks at coder dojo, googled tutorials and did online courses. Did the app get created? No; but the learning that was developed and the interest that was ignited in these two advocates was immeasurable. This challenge has set them on their way on a career path to IT. There are hidden values in challenges that awaken parts in us all. It’s to see that the mountain is not an obstacle but a new viewing point to be reached.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains.”
My students were fixated with the idea of getting through to the final showcase. At times as a Guide I would wake up in the middle of the night fearing that they wouldn’t. I knew from my YSI in-service that there wasn’t a place for everyone in the audience. However, and this was a big learning curve for me; the students said they felt more success, joy and possibilities on the day of the speakout. In their minds they felt that there was such a sense of young peoples’ voices united in a can do attitude. They felt a sense of hope and possibility that is very unique to the speakout. Getting through to the showcase is always a bonus and does carry a feeling of success; however it was all the successes in between that held greater value for them. Everything else was a bonus. The culmination of their success was speaking at the National Digital Strategy Launch and bringing Minister Jan O’Sullivan down to showcase the learning space. It was a wonderful validation of the contributions their work made to education. Nonetheless there is no greater validation than the one they give themselves. For them the recognition from within themselves about what they thought they could never do but ended up doing has a far greater sense of achievement. It’s important as the YSI Guide to give out deserved affirmations and accolades all along the way at the wonderful steps being taken. A little like watching a faltering toddler; if they fall we give them a little consolation, a clap and a cheer and put them straight back up on their feet before they doubt themselves. If we keep the success of the showcase as the only success it would really change the integrity of YSI. Young Social Innovators tells young people that they matter and they are the present and future hope of great things in the world. It is the realisation that their voices, opinions, their gifts, their talents and the success of coming up with an idea and bringing it to completion makes them change agents. As young people they have come to realise that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” Dr Seuss.
Young Social Innovators facilitates that caring and provides the perfect launchpad for realising and taking action about the things that young people care about.