Thursday, April 30, 2009

Give Your Students Opportunities to Make a Difference

Most of the students in my school come from a very stressed economic background. They don't have a lot of extra money to spend. Most don't have computers, let alone internet access. Not asking for sympathy, just telling you their background.

As you know if you read this post, my students participate in an activity called "Tie Tuesday" where they wear ties at school. I bought a bunch of ties at yard sales so my students could have them to wear.

Last week I had my students leave a post on the Daraja Academy Blog. Many of my students didn't understand why the academy was a big deal. We have free (compulsory) education in the United States. They couldn't understand why I thought the Daraja Academy was so important to Africa. They didn't get it.

After I explained how hard it was for kids to go to school in Kenya and many other African countries, they began to see the point of the academy. A light bulb went off and I realized this may be a "teachable moment". I told the students that the school ran off donations from people and I thought we might be able to help out. I asked them if they would be willing to "rent" the ties on Tie Tuesdays for a quarter and we could send the money to the academy. They unanimously agreed that it was a great idea.

This Tuesday the students started bringing me their quarters to rent the ties. Some students rented ties for their friends and a few even donated extra money. After the ties were all rented out I counted the money and they had given $10.45. Now this is not an extraordinarily large amount of money, but the students and I were both pleased. The class voted to wait until next week to send the money, after they had another chance to donate.

The money my students donate will probably not make a big contribution to the academy, but it just might make a difference with my students' attitude towards our school and their own opportunities. Their willingness to give has already made a big difference with the amount of respect I have for them.

What are you doing in your class to teach your students about giving?

Daraja Academy is the first free all-girls secondary school in all of East Africa.


Jarrod Lamshed said...

I couldn't agree more with what you're saying here. Showing the kids that they can make a difference to others is essential. They need to feel empowered and feel like they are a contributing member of the world's community.

As some will already know, my boys have just completed a fundraiser to support childhood cancer research. The idea came from the students in our case, and we had FANTASTIC support and were able to raise $1910.00. The boys worked their backsides off to do this and had their heads clippered to raise awareness for their cause.

Follow the link below to see a video of the 'clippers for cancer' event at our class blog.

My Teacher Hat said...

I teach at a low-income school as well. A few weeks before school started in August, we lost a student, without warning, to sudden-onset juvenile diabetes. Let's call her A. She was one of the 12 students in my advisory, 14 years old. I had been her advisor for two years, and had taught her for three.

I spoke with the school counselor, and we agreed that the best way to approach the grieving process would be to get the students to find a way to honor their fallen classmate. After speaking with A's family, we decided to start a scholarship fund for one (or more) students in what would have been A's graduating class. The students solicited donations of goods and services, and we sold raffle tickets. We made almost $2500, a fortune when you consider that there were 11 students participating, selling the tickets for $5. And we agreed that a percentage of every fundraiser we have for the next two years (until graduation) will be donated to the memorial scholarship fund. It was one of the most powerful experiences I've had as a teacher.

Anthony said...

Wow, those stories are incredible. As an aspiring teacher, I think your classes are an inspiration and a great example of genuine service. Thanks for the great ideas, and good luck with the rest of your endeavors!

Anonymous said...

That's fantastic. I'll show this to my students at Toorak College who are trying to run a fundraiser on May 22nd to suppory Daraja too. Here's the ning they have created to let the world know about it.

Your kids could join this too to post about their efforts. My kids are really interested in making links with other schools about this cause. We are an all girls secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. It might help to inspire your students.
Jenny Luca : )

Jabiz Raisdana said...

I keep meaning to write a more thoughtful and profound comment, but time is elusive. Let me just whole heartedly thank you for the support you have shown Daraja and wish you good luck in all your future efforts.

Let me know if I can help in anyway to paint a clearer picture for your students, in ways of Skype call etc...

John Strange said...


And what am I doing to teach my students about giving? Nothing. That WILL change next semester. I don't know how I will approach it, but I will. The Tie idea is great.