Who Matters in Seattle

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The most recent pulls-no-punches blog post that’s sweeping up readers? A description by a veteran teacher who shadowed high school students for two days that included this heart-rending conclusion: Students “feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.”

Teachers don’t feel much better. A survey released last February reported that “teachers overwhelmingly say they aren’t being listened to on matters of education policy at the state or national level.”

For both them, teacher-writer-speaker Angela Maiers has a clarion message. “You matter. And the world needs your contributions.” Best of all: she really means it.

Maiers is the opening speaker at EdSurge’s Tech for Schools Summit in Seattle, held in the Bell Harbor Center on October 24 and 25. Any practicing educator in the region can get a free ticket to the event. (Friday is geared toward school administrators; Saturday is built for teachers. Maiers is participating both days.)

Maiers, who spent many years as a high school teacher in Iowa and now runs a nonprofit called Choose2Matter, has a deeply empowering message. “We underestimate our own value,” says Maiers. “You can’t be of service to someone else or the world, unless you understand that you matter,” she says. “It’s not a statement of inspiration. It’s a reminder of your civic and citizen responsibility.”

Her work has already touched the lives of students and teachers at Seattle’s Highline Schools. Teacher Jamie Ewing says that last year, one of his classes did a “Choose2Matter” project and collaborated with students in Germany to create stop-motion films to illustrate how learning, technology and dreams can lead to the feeling that everyone matters. (Check out the video they created below.)

Focusing on how individuals matter is a deep theme running through the EdSurge Summit: Hundreds of teachers will get a chance to meet and question more than 30 edtech companies. Company reps are not supposed to rattle off sales pitches. Instead, Summit participants come prepared to listen and ask questions of teachers: What’s your teaching philosophy? How do you want to structure your teaching practices? Does this tool support how you interact with students?

The EdSurge Summits were designed to bridge the community of people who build technology to support learning--and those who are putting it to work in their classrooms. Elaine Caraviotto, a teacher in California who attended a previous Summit said it was unlike any other meeting she’s attended. “I have been teaching for 24 years and it was the first conference I have gone to that I really felt the spirit of collaboration between companies and teachers!”

That philosophy--asking questions and truly listening for feedback--is at the core of Maiers’ program, too. In her 2011 TEDx talk, Maiers describes the transformative nature of listening: “What if you make note of what you notice? It changes a culture.”

Maiers recalls a mother telling her how every day her son went to school, she witnessed “the soul of my son was disappearing.” But when teachers say to students “You are a genius. And the world needs your contribution,” students raised their expectations of themselves--and their own work.

And so EdSurge echoes the belief that Maiers so beautifully articulates: You matter.

Administrators: Register for your free pass for Friday Oct. 24’s Administrator Workshop here.

Teachers (& Admins too!): Register for your free pass for Saturday Oct. 25’s All Educator Day here.

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