Change Yourself First: Cambiá Vos Primero

Ignacio “Nacho” Brea, Enseñá por Argentina 2012

I started Enseñá por Argentina with high expectations and dreams of delivering the best lessons in the world. But the reality facing my students was tougher than I had ever imagined, nothing seemed to be working and my confidence soon disappeared. The drive home alone after school was silent and tough - Instead of providing an opportunity for my students to transform, I felt like I was providing them with the worst  teaching they could have.

At that point, I didn’t have a strong vision and as a result my class lacked direction and was meaningless for my students.  The problem was that I was trying to motivate them without first understanding their reality. I was trying to create a vision without any context. How can you transform somebody if you don’t really know him?

Step 1: I had to get to know my students bettertheir background, their needs, their interests and how they perceived themselves. I had to get out into the community and understand their reality, understand what motivates them. I started with simple surveys asking my students about their interests and their family backgrounds. Then I surveyed the parents about their expectations for their children and their feelings in regard to the educational community. Seeing the world through my students and their families' eyes helped me to start constructing a vision that could be meaningful to them.

Step 2: I let my students get to know me better. If they were going to invest in our vision, they first needed to trust me. I started being open with them about who I was, why I was there, and my motivations and expectations. Gradually my students started to see how important they were to me and began to understand that I was there because I was passionate about helping them. They started to work with me rather than struggling against me.

Step 3: I asked my students to help me improve my performance as a leader. I started to regularly survey my students, asking them what they thought about my class, what they thought about me. One example of how this changed me is when they told me that I ‘talk too much’ and I realized that I had been trying to be the star of the class when they were the true stars. Since then I have given them the space to take responsibility of their own learning and develop their own leadership.

Beyond helping me to deliver better lessons, this process allowed me to model the transformation I hoped to see in my students. I realised that by asking my students to inform my growth as a teacher I was demonstrating behaviour that in turn would help them grow as students. By opening myself up to feedback, I was showing them that mistakes are an opportunity to learn rather than something to hide from. My journey of growth became a powerful example for my students. If I could grow so could they—I was proof that transformation is possible.

Two years later and I am now seeing amazing results. I feel strong as a class leader and my students are fully invested in our vision to be ‘drivers of change in the community.' They have taken this vision and developed it, bringing new ideas and the motivation to make it happen. They now run extracurricular classes to support younger students and they are building a Community Service department in the school.

Their feedback fed my growth as a classroom leader, my transformation fed their belief in their own growth and now their transformation is inspiring growth in others. They are the true change makers.


Reflect & Share

How can you model transformation for your students?