Creating our Bigger Future: Possibilities and Hope

By Joan Moser

February 13, 2015
Issue #343

We are the makers of hope, the creators of possibility, the ones who inspire. We are their teachers. 

It is a heavy load, frightening at any given moment and daunting on many days. Yet as their teachers, we have the power to inspire or defeat, make or break, encourage or dissuade. Matthew Kelly, international acclaimed speaker, author, and business consultant who is dedicated to helping others become the best version of themselves says, “Everything great in history is built upon the belief that the future can be bigger than the past.” He challenges us with this question: "How are we creating our bigger future?"

I have been thinking a lot about Matthew Kelly’s quote and question, as well as a quote by Pete Carroll, coach of the Seattle Seahawks, spoken at a dinner engagement I attended: "What you focus on, you can do, so let’s do great things."

In this time of educational challenges, it can be easier to focus on what is going wrong or the things that are holding us back. Attention and time can be gobbled up by assessments, test scores, student poverty and mobility between schools, and our being asked to implement instructional practices that are not based in research. So what is it we can do that will help us inspire students and make a difference? 

In an effort to keep from being paralyzed by the enormity of it all, I suggest that we start small, purposefully focusing on one research-proven area. This one thing is based on Dr. Ken Wesson’s research. He says, “The number one predictor of success in life, which includes education, careers and even relationships, is vocabulary. It is neither socioeconomic status nor even one’s level of education" (FOSS Keynote Presentation, 2012).

Dr. Wesson went on to say that one of the very best ways to procure an expanded vocabulary is through daily reading. This transpires by providing extended amounts of time each and every day for children to read voraciously. Extended reading needs to be steeped in student choice of books and other reading material at their independent reading level.

Supporting vocabulary growth also means a concerted effort to read excellent children's literature aloud each day, highlighting and modeling a love for words, and using those words in conversations with students and in our modeled writing. Reading newspaper articles about current events in both near and faraway places is a powerful way to build vocabulary by learning the names of people as well as about the world situation as a whole. It can also be the foundation for teaching understanding and tolerance.

How do we create hope, inspire students, and create a bigger future if we are just one person, in our own classrooms, doing our best work with students day to day? I wonder what might happen if in each of our classrooms we focus on one thing: building vocabulary. In the words of Desmond Tutu, "Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s that little bit of good combined that can change the world." Let’s do it! 


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