In June, the UW Lab School was invited to join the Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network. Ashoka’s goal is to ensure every child grows up to be a changemaker: an empathetic individual who can work in teams to solve problems. In order to achieve this goal, the Changemaker Schools Network was created. The network is a national community of leading schools that serve as models for cultivating these skills in students. Schools in the network benefit from opportunities to share their best practices, collaborate with other Changemaker Schools, and connect with social entrepreneurs, young leaders, universities, and companies in the Ashoka community. These opportunities have included visiting other Changemaker Schools, presenting at conferences, and being featured in media outlets like Forbes, PBS Parents, and GOOD.
The Changemaker Schools application process involved a phone conversation with an Ashoka staff member, a school visit, a self-evaluation, and a phone conference selection panel. Upon completion of this process, the team at Ashoka shared that they were inspired and encouraged by the Lab School’s commitment to cultivating empathy in students, as well as our aspiration to ensure all children become changemakers. While others are already making inroads with policy change and the development of new measurement tools, Ashoka recognizes that true change lies in the hands of individual educators, and people immersed in daily classroom realities. Fortunately, cultivating empathy and empowering children to become effective changemakers in their communities isn’t an add-on, or a brand-new concept: it starts with simply articulating, and then amplifying, what great teaching is all about. That’s why Ashoka is committed to building a community of practice comprised not just of leading schools, but of forward-thinking educators. Over the course of the coming year, Ashoka plans to offer support through three key levers:
Ashoka’s history is built on telling a different kind of story: equipping social entrepreneurs with the language and framework they need to explain who they are, and what is truly systems-changing about their work. They want to work with schools to help them tell their story, identify the core design principles behind how they do what you do, and provide both a framework and a set of resources to showcase why a different vision of the purpose of school is critical to our nation’s future.
Too often, great teaching is locked behind closed doors: rarely leaving the confines of a single classroom or school building. Consequently, they intend to share the stories that unpack how schools do what they do, and provide both a set of inspirational role models and an accompanying set of distilled practices that other educators can apply to their own schools. Rather than focus exclusively on the school writ large, they hope to highlight specific individuals at each campus – the teachers and principals who each day help children develop the capacity to grow intellectually, socially and emotionally. Through a combination of inside-the-classroom video series, key education conferences, features and guest-blogging opportunities with various media partners, they believe they can help ensure that those stories attain maximum reach.
The Network recognizes that while each school shares a powerful vision, each also brings a different set of needs, challenges, and areas for growth. Accordingly, they commit to work with school teams to identify school-specific concrete goals and to co-create action plans that help each school extend the influence of their work over the course of the year. In addition, they will act as connectors and facilitators, helping to match school leaders to opportunities within the Ashoka network and facilitating collaboration between changemaker schools both in Wyoming and around the country.