I remember sitting with my faculty advisor at Ohio State back in the day. Students in the school of education were soliciting pledges for a walk-a-thon event.
“I just don’t get it,” she said. “All that time and energy wasted. Why not just donate the money…or donate the time and effort to the charity directly?”
I remember concurring. Don’t get me wrong. If someone I knew asked for a pledge for every mile they walked, I supported them. Much like today’s protests cropping up in cities around the world, walk-a-thons create a sense of engagement by:
- creating visibility for a commitment that is important to participants
- fostering a sense of community among everyone involved
- offering the opportunity to exercise the right of free speech
- firming up resolve around addressing the issue at hand
- allowing participants feel like they are DOING something
It feels good to be part of something bigger than one’s self. Engagement is an adrenaline rush, and there’s no downside to getting involved. But what’s the outcome? Once the event is over, how does walking and collecting money, or parading and protesting, make any difference? Feel free to expend your energy on any cause you like, and feel good doing it...but at the end of the day, what is the impact?
Raising money for medical research, standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and expressing one’s beliefs on how to make the world a better place are all laudable pursuits. I'm not arguing the point...but after the crowds disperse and everyone returns home, if all that effort and energy doesn’t significantly address the cause for the better...or point to concrete next steps to continue the push for change...what’s the real value? The impact…the appreciable outcome…makes the difference.
I am exhausted by the display of competing interests trying to advance their agendas publicly today, both in our streets and online. Posting and protesting are all fine and well...but in a sea of opinions and belief systems, the sentiments are a wash. It’s what we do that creates real change...the true difference our actions make...that determines impact.
This holds true in education, too. How much are we doing that makes us feel good, but doesn’t directly, positively impact the lives of children? We all have our beliefs and agendas, reinforced by what has worked for us in the past...but the landscape has changed, and what worked decades ago may no longer hold value. We have to look at the end result of our efforts to determine what has real impact. And if they won't or they don't, why bother?
As the new school year begins, I invite you to identify the outcomes you want to see in education, and focus your efforts to make them happen...
Hurl yourself into your work to make a difference...
Propel yourself into the eye of the storm...not to ride it out, but to drive it where you want it to go...
Because...in the end...it's not enough just to show up...you have to make impact for change to happen!