Sort of like road trip-happy parents of classic family-vacation lore, we spend the summer taking young people across the country on long road trips. Fortunately for us, our Roadtrippers are eager to jump on board the Green RV and don’t have to be plied with promises of in-car movie screenings or overpriced souvenirs. Our First-Gen Roadtrip, made up of four students who are the first in their families to attend college, recently wrapped up its cross-country journey.
According to standard Roadtrip Nation practice, the Roadtrippers came up with a team name–but didn’t reveal it until the end of their journey, as a culminating statement about their experience on the road: #WhyNotUs. #WhyNotUs reflects the sentiment voiced over and over again by the Leaders the team interviewed–all first-generation college graduates themselves. But it also serves as a reminder to the Roadtrippers–whenever they begin to feel self-doubt, or fear about college, or stumble a bit under the immense pressure of being first–of what they learned on the road.
But #WhyNotUs isn’t exclusively for first-generation students; it can be a reminder for all students and educators embarking on a new year. Who says you can’t change your students’ future paths? Who says you can’t try out a flipped classroom this year? Who says your students can’t be challenged to create a solution to a community problem?
If you or your students are looking for a dose of inspiration to start the new year, check out these TED Talks we’ve pulled to get you thinking #WhyNotUs.
(Friendly reminder: be sure to preview all video content, including TED Talks, to make sure they are appropriate for young eyes!)
Thomas Suarez: 12-Year-Old App Developer | TEDxManhattanBeach
You’ve probably come across stories of child geniuses building robots in their basement, but chalked up their uncommon innovation to overindulgent parents or too much Baby Einstein. It’s easy to pass these kids off as an anomaly–mythical creatures similar to the likes of the tooth fairy. But, in reality, you as an educator can be the spark for such a student–or any student–by providing a recipe of encouragement, inspiration, and education. Although Thomas does throw some shade at educators for their knowledge (or lack thereof) of all things tech, he credits his ability to create apps to the educators who weren’t afraid of his knowledge, but instead helped him harness it. Like Uncle Ben to Spider-Man, it’s up to you to help all students harness their creative potential.
Diana Nyad: Never, ever give up | TEDWomen 2013
We’re all fascinated by stories of those who embark on treacherous or transformative journeys, whether it’s climbing Mount Everest or trying to navigate life and academics as a first-generation college student. At the age of 64, Diana was the first person to successfully swim from the shores of Cuba to the lights of Florida. Diana didn’t embark on the quest alone–and no, the sharks and jellyfish don’t count as swimming mates–Diana was supported by a team of experts who kept her safe, guided her path, and helped her reach success on her own terms. As an educator, you have many “Dianas” to track and guide as they chart their course, but working together as a team with a common goal can alleviate some of your stress. Work with your students to establish a mutual “horizon,” but also understand that some will get there using different strokes, and some will need different mantras to keep them swimming.
Richard Turere: My invention that made peace with lions | TED2014
The need to solve a problem has led to many innovative, elegant solutions. Want to wear a blanket but keep your hands free? Grab a Snuggie. But Richard’s problems were a lot bigger: not only was he responsible for caring for his family’s livestock, he had to guard them from lions. Yes, lions–a far cry from the problem of how to wear a blanket. Instead of sticking to tried-and-true solutions, Richard sought to bring peace to his community, furry friends included. When inspiring innovation among your students, challenge them to take the same approach as Richard: create community through improved solutions, don’t just solve for x. By focusing on the “us,” and not just the “it,” students can see the ripple effect of their ideas and strengthen their bonds with the people (and animals) they live with.