Why ISTE Made me Apologize (to my former students)

A tweet from me earlier this morning: Embrace the differences. Quit trying to make kids the same. Allow students to be who they are & embrace their uniqueness!-@latoyadixon5
I am often in awe of how much time we spend trying to press our kids into conformity. We unintentionally tell kids they need to be the same, not different. We instruct them of how the “real world” expects them to talk, walk, look, dress, and act. We fail to embrace their uniqueness and differences and often if we do extend a bit of consideration to their individuality, we remind them of when and where it is o.k. to be their authentic selves. Often we overlook the fact that those who have changed the world have only one thing similar about them, which is that they were different from everyone else. Take a look at some of the greatest leaders of our world-Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who advocates for girls to be educated in her country and continues to do so. Dr. Martin Luther King who fought for equal rights for African-Americans. Steve Jobs who changed our lives by creating tech tools that help us connect and live in ways we never have before.
I am reminded by all three of the aforementioned that they embraced being and doing something different. The didn’t make the world a better place by being like everyone else. They did it by being courageous enough to be different. My colleague, co-principal, and friend Mike Waiksnis (@mwaiksnis-follow him on twitter) often tells students, “Be courageous enough to be yourself.” This is valuable and awesome advice and I often remind myself to do just this even when he is not speaking directly to me.
But what moves me most, is when I remind myself to be courageous enough to accept my students for who they are-accept their differences, their quirkiness, their likes, their dislikes, their interests, their hopes and their dreams. Let us not assume that kids like what we like, that kids are interested in what we are interested in, and that kids are passionate about what we are passionate about. How about we ask them-What interest you? What are you passionate about What do you like? And then…we listen. Listen and be open. This takes practice.

I can remember a student I taught several years ago. David was not into my English Language Arts class at all. It was a true struggle to get him to read and even more of a struggle to get him to write. But when he began writing about how much he enjoyed working on automotives and rebuilding engines, I came to know and to appreciate him. I thought to myself, if I had only known this earlier, what more we could have accomplished. I now realize, I didn’t know because I didn’t ask. And perhaps, he told me, but I didn’t listen. I was too busy trying to conform him and make him appreciate the things I loved and enjoyed. I did not embrace what made him different and what made him, quite frankly, him. ISTE helped me realize that I need to apologize to my former students and for that I am grateful.
I know better now. When you know better, you do better. 
Until next time…be you, be true, and be a hope builder!

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