I had a lovely weekend.
Saturday was spent with the writers and teachers of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio. Several new high school students joined us this time around, and we welcomed Pam Marchewka-Cornwell, a teacher from Alden High School, to the community as well. We used our time together to explore the ways in which we might gift others with our writing, which is a goal that we’re preparing for in anticipation of the upcoming holidays that will be upon us shortly.
You give little of yourself when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
Kahlil Gibran is loved for reminders such as these, and so often these days, we’re called upon to remember this. Many of the writers in our studio are in the process of defining how they might make a difference for others this year, and toward the end of our session on Saturday, several of them spoke about the ways in which they are planning to do so. Local school districts, religious educators, and service leaders invite young people to give of themselves by participating in meaningful service work often, and I was impressed to learn that schools in our community have these expectations for our students. Saturday provided a bit of foreshadowing for this post as well…..because today, I’m thrilled to announce a new opportunity for teachers and students who are interested in giving of themselves.
Many of our friends and family members are aware that my daughter, Laura, began an online service project of her own last December. Her work was inspired by the New York State Parent Teacher Association, which hosts the Reflections Contest each year. Laura loves to write, and this event is something that she participates in regularly. Last year, the PTA challenged students to think about how they could make a difference, and Laura chose to create a blog in response to this. Several years ago, her grandfather passed away quite unexpectedly. Losing him was difficult for her, and as her parents, it was hard to know how to see her through her grief. Laura decided to devote a year of service to the memory of her grandfather, as she knew that this would be something that would make him proud. This allowed her to keep his memory alive in very positive ways. It also taught her much about the meaning of service and the important role that communities provide to these sorts of efforts. Laura has accomplished a lot this year, and we’ve made some wonderful friends in the process. This is what leaves my eleven year old eager to continue doing more.
One of our friends is Jenny Luca. Jenny is a teacher and a library-media specialist from Melbourne Australia. Laura and I forged a bond with Jenny and her students last year when Laura was invited to skype into their classroom to speak about her project. This wasn’t Laura’s first experience doing so, but it was her first experience using a webcam on her own, and it was a bumpy one. Jenny was patient however, and her kids were ready with fabulous questions. Laura was blown away to speaking with people from Australia, and we’ve remained in contact via Twitter and email ever since. All of us are intrigued by the power of the web and the capability that we now have to collaborate across continents in order to learn from one another and work together.
Since last spring, Jenny, her students, Laura, and I have been eager to launch a project that would bring MANY people together in an effort to do great things. Today, we’re thrilled to be launching Working Together 2 Make a Difference! Educators and students from across the globe are invited to join this space and share what they are doing to make a difference in their own ways. The purpose of this space is to provide teachers and students a manageable but powerful way to demonstrate what they are doing to make a difference and to connect with other classrooms who are involved in similar projects. We hope that this will enable students from all over the world to understand how much greater the effect can be when many people are working together to make a difference—even in small ways. We are also eager to see just how much we can learn from each other as we build a network devoted to giving back.
Teachers, please consider joining us here! Our premise is simple, we’ve established a very manageable timeline, and the potential for your students to learn more about giving, communicating, and collaborating is very real. We hope to see you there! Thank you, Jenny, for inviting us to team up with you in this way. Laura and I are very excited about the weeks ahead!