I’m fresh off the events of the MSTA conference (Michigan Science Teachers Association) in Lansing. The conference is a highlight for us at the VAEI, we get to meet with hundreds of educators seeking to be informed and inspired for the good of their students. It’s an event that both humbles me and fills me with wonder. It’s truly extraordinary.

But this year, I noticed something a little different. VAEI presented at the conference this year as well as staffing a booth on the main floor. I found myself wanting to pitch in and help wherever there was need. I wanted to support the staff and presenters in any way I could, and I wanted to personally welcome as many guests as possible. When I thought of it that way, I felt like I was needed everywhere; cleaning the carpet when a participant spilled their coffee, helping at registration, greeting folks on escalators, thanking and encouraging presenters, the list goes on.

The Teacher’s Dilemma

The truth is, I’m needed nowhere. Conferences are a well-oiled machine with staff and presenters who know their roles and are experts in confidently fulfilling them. The participants are thrilled to be there and are well-cared for by the best team on the planet.

It occurs to me that this sentiment of feeling needed everywhere and nowhere is exactly what you should strive for as an educator in the classroom. When you empower and build capacity in your students, you don’t diminish your influence, you expand it. You create an army of advocates who can help you accomplish your goals.

So, think carefully about who does what in your classroom. What tasks can you offload to your students, or better yet, what does your ideal classroom look like? What’s stopping you from achieving this? Your students may be able to help you. Empower them with jobs that make learning relevant, meaningful, and fun.

A Few ideas

Here are just a few jobs to consider…

  • Kindness Ambassador: Make sure everyone is included in activities. Create a kindness goal for each month – model it and reward when you see it in others.
  • Cultural Ambassador: Research how what we are learning about connects to some other country or culture in the world. Share with the class on a weekly basis.
  • PR Ambassador: Summarize what incredible things happened this week in the classroom and get the word out: Blog, Tweet, Tik Tok, etc.
  • Graphic Designer: Summarize our learning in a one-page visual.
  • Interior Designer: Submit plans for making our space one that fosters creativity, innovation, and authentic learning.

You’ll always be needed everywhere; there will be a thousand ways you can make connections and bring learning to life for your students. But work on being needed nowhere. It’s a nice place to be.

P.S. Admins, this sentiment holds true for you, too. Empower your teachers with roles that will help you make your vision a reality. Your influence will expand exponentially.