My friend Alan Burnce is an experienced high school English teacher, having taught in inner New York City and rural Oregon for nearly a decade. Incidentally, he’s a graduate of Stanford and of Harvard’s school of education. In other words, he’s a well educated, experienced teacher, and he’s passionate about mentoring students. He’s the kind of educator all young people should have the opportunity to work with.
Last spring, Alan was laid off due to budget cuts. But he hasn’t given up the work he’s been doing with students. He learned of an innovative education model in Massachusetts called North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens and decided to replicate that model, has students ready to join, and is currently seeking funding.
A nonprofit called P:ear “builds positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth through education, art, and recreation.” For eleven years, they have worked respectfully to rebuild the whole person, helping to lift youth out of desperate situations and return hope to their lives. P:ear operates like a school, even holding regular school hours, but they aren’t qualified for school funding.
Ten years ago, a mother started a homeschooling cooperative called the Village Home Education Resource Center where families can meet and learn together in a loving environment. She worked under the public system for two years, but after being stifled by their regulations, she finally had to cut ties with the district and look for private funding.
These are all real stories of real educators in Portland, Oregon, and stories like these exist all over the world. I could go on for hours (or pages) about educators I know personally who are fighting the good fight to make education relevant, alive, and consequential for their students. But as we know all too well, these efforts often persevere in isolation, behind the closed doors of a classroom or organization that is doing brilliant work.
How can we make such efforts more collaborative, public, and grassroots? How can we support educators every step of the way as they bring their good ideas to life?
Educators are often missing two vital elements when they want to implement creative solutions in their classrooms, homeschooling cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, after-school programs, etc.: Funds and a unifying platform to bring people together.
They have the ideas, the passion, the drive. But in a system that’s drowning in debt and bureaucracy, educators often don’t have access to the money or tools necessary to bring their innovations to life. I’ve been working with a team of people to remedy this problem.
Introducing IncitEd: Grassroots Educational Innovations, the brainchild of my business partner and fellow educator, Kevilina Burbank, and me. We want to give education back to educators, broadly defined.
Maybe an educator looks like someone keeping kids safe and in school in Syria or keeping them off the streets in Portland. Maybe an educator works at a homeschooling cooperative, providing kids and families a place to learn together. Or maybe it’s someone who teaches kids to fly, literally. Whoever educators are, and however they’re defined, they deserve a chance to make the difference most of them have been working fervently for their entire careers.
IncitEd is just getting started. Right now we’re testing our idea among friends, family, and other teachers via our IncitEd crowdfunding campaign. We’ll be doing our alpha test in three weeks with two projects (to fund P:ear’s GED program and to fund Alan’s efforts to start a North Star replication in Portland). Our beta test will follow shortly after with a dozen or more projects.
We’re asking for two things to help us incite this learning revolution:
- Go to our Facebook page, “Like” us, and tell your friends about us.
- Visit our Incited campaign to learn more about what we’re up to, and let others know about it if you think IncitEd is worth promoting.
If we democratize change, helping it catch fire from the ground up, innovation will spread faster and be more connected to the people who need it most: learners around the world. That’s our hypothesis anyway. What do you think?