In Empowering Educators, inspiring Aussie educators share how they build and nurture entrepreneurial mindsets in schools and classrooms. Here we ask our very own Sam Newman about his inspiration and how he creates creating authentic and connected learning experiences.
Q1. Can you give us three words (or phrases) that describe your life as an educator?
Fun, sincere, adaptable.
Q2. What is the most important skill for young people to learn at school? What’s one way that educators (and/or caregivers) can explicitly build this skill?
Navigating through the sea of endless pedagogy-related buzzwords can be an overwhelming experience as an educator. In fact, I still vividly remember the sense of impending doom felt in my first few weeks out of teachers’ college.
I mean, how was I supposed to get a group of disengaged teenagers, most of whom would barely look me in the eye, to not only enjoy learning quadratics but at the same time be global citizens, show digital literacy skills, develop emotional intelligence, collaborate, think critically… in 60 minutes? You get the idea!
It’s safe to say there were many sleepless nights spent worrying in my first year of teaching.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no denying that these skills are incredibly important to ensure that we are giving our young people the chance to thrive in a rapidly changing world. I do however believe that the formula is somewhat simpler.
If I could turn back time and give my past-self some advice it would be to foster an environment that gives all students a sense of belonging. An environment that allows young people to hold on to the curiosity and love of learning that they had as children. One that celebrates the setbacks, as that is where real growth can happen. Stop teaching and start scaffolding.
If you can build a classroom culture that encompasses those things, then all the other necessities seem to fall into place naturally.
Oh, and don’t ever stop learning and having fun!
Q3: What’s one of the best learning experiences you’ve ever delivered (or seen being delivered)?
This is a really tough one as there are so many experiences that jump to mind.
I’ve got to go with one particular experience though as I feel it was the most transformative for both myself and the young heroes involved. I say ‘heroes’ because that’s what the unit was about. Being an everyday hero. Specifically how everyone has the capability to do amazing things and change the world.
To give some context I was working in a low-socioeconomic area in a school that supported students after not fitting the mould of mainstream education. Many of the students had complex home lives and had all but given up on education.
The experience itself was a term-long passion project of which students could choose themselves. The mission was to become an everyday hero and make a difference in their world. It was by no means an easy task for me, or the students involved. Students experienced many setbacks along the way but showed grit and adaptability in solving their problems. Pedagogically, we used an inquiry-based approach to learning which was amplified using the design process.
Although the products and ideas that came to fruition were incredible, we had students actually out in the community making an impact. What really stuck with me was that throughout the process the students had completely transformed their mindset and had unlocked levels of self-confidence and self-belief that leaked out into other areas of their lives.
A great hook that I used was For the Heros: A pep talk by Kid President.
Q4. One thing all teachers and school leaders wish for is more time. Can you suggest one ‘productivity hack’ to save teachers time?
Having worked in schools across Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, I think that the best ‘productivity hack’ to save teachers time is to develop a staff culture of true collaboration.
Learn to be vulnerable when working with your colleagues (and young people), after all, teamwork makes the dream work!
Q5: What’s one book, website or podcast you’d recommend to educators keen to build the entrepreneurial mindsets of their students?
I’d have to go with ‘The Quest for Personal Mastery’ by Professor Srikumar Rao.
Professor Srikumar Rao is an international speaker, bestselling author, and one of the most popular MBA lecturers in America. His courses are among the highest rated at many of the world’s top business schools. Here’s a recent talk on how to rewire your mind for greater happiness and success from Professor Rao.
Meet this week’s Empowering Educator, Sam Newman.
Sam is an internationally decorated educator whose guiding principles are founded within an inquiry-based approach to learning. Sam’s time as a teacher saw him work in schools in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, holding various teaching and leadership roles. He has spent time supporting schools and teachers to develop best practice surrounding wellbeing and believes that a successful education is one that starts with a holistic approach.
As Head of Programs here at Future Anything, Sam is the friendly and supportive key contact and relationship manager for schools participating in our entrepreneurship programs.
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