What are you leading?
I currently work as Director of Education at CoSchool, a Colombian organization based in Bogotá. We activate young peoples’ and educators’ potential to transform their world by designing and executing programs that focus on developing socio emotional skills through a project based learning approach. We have worked with more than 9500 students across Colombia embracing the concept of collective leadership as the most powerful tool to address the challenges we have as a country. Peace requires collective efforts and people willing to cross different frontiers, from socio-economic backgrounds to gender, culture, and religion; we need to commit to learn together and create new ways of living, embracing diversity and recognizing the best of each person’s past to move forward. In our programs, students identify needs or opportunities in their schools, neighborhoods or municipalities and design sustainable solutions making use of resources that already exist and talents they have developed. During the process they grow on determination, self-knowledge, conflict solving and decision making skills that allow them to become competent leaders, role models and change makers. They learn to feel, think and act for their own benefit and the benefit of others around them.
How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?
My time in the classroom gave me the tools to observe better, to understand and listen to my student needs before judging them for acting in a way that was wrong to my privileged eyes. I learned that being a teacher in my country is really hard work. That even when, in most cases, passion dissolves in time when working conditions are unfair and underrated, you can still find a handful of teachers who have put their heart and soul in their classrooms for years and keep on having high expectations for their students. I also learn that two years is not close to be enough to be competent at teaching. As fellows we have had the amazing opportunity of being exposed to the real experience and that, as an empathy exercise, put on our shoulders the responsibility of keep on learning and pursue the professionalization of teaching.
On that path of finding new ways of doing, I found the Coursera Teaching Character course by Dave Levine. I started applying and reading more about socio- emotional development and my classroom changed completely, I enjoyed more my classes because I could see how this was really useful for my students, It helped them face challenges at home, make better decisions in the classroom and have higher expectations about themselves and their classmates. After, we were able to exit the classroom and understand the challenges of the community we were living in. We started working on interventions, flashmobs and performances as a way of “doing something about it”. From more fair space distribution between younger and older kids during recess to reducing early pregnancies, my students changed their mindset about what they could do and their expectations about how their community could be like in the future. This led me to join Henry May, Coschool’s founder and Teach First fellow, in his journey of creating this entrepreneurship project that keeps on putting the socio-emotional education subject in the education agenda fo it to have the same space our academic or cognitive approach has.
There’s not a very clear pathway. I keep on looking for a better understanding of what education means in my country. I plan to do a masters that takes me closer to that goal and continue on the development of a collective way of feeling, thinking and acting.