From Education to Entrepreneurship

4c8e51a7650c6d7c24b7c4f5f6c90832Leaving something that you have done for so can be a very challenging thing to do. There is a lot of initial denial, grief, and heartache. But it can also be a very rewarding step that you take to a new beginning.

Many years ago, I wanted to become a teacher not because I loved teaching so much, but because I wanted to make a difference in students’ lives. I wanted to make a difference in education, and be part of an industry that impacts students everyday. Social justice, social impact, and equity were my core passions, and I believed that education was the most appropriate place for me to make a difference.

Growing up as an English Language Learner and a refugee myself, I related to many of my students. I wanted to improve the learning conditions for them in the classroom. As an English professor, I asked myself daily: “How can I make a difference in students’ lives today?” Luckily, I taught English and Literature, and as English teachers, we use writing as a tool to empower our students’ thoughts and ideas.

Writing can make a difference in this world.

I left teaching a few years ago due to some major changes that happened to contract faculty. Leaving the classroom was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

The classroom is where I found my voice as a student, and as a professor. It’s where I dedicated nearly a decade working with children, young people, and adults on communicating their voice through writing.

Student voice should play a key role in shaping and shifting the paradigms of education. Every students’ voice needs to be heard. Over the past few years, we’ve been actively working on a mission to cultivate an environment where every student of any level feels empowered to share their story, thoughts, and ideas, to engage in community narratives and succeed academically.

Our goal can’t be accomplished overnight. It requires us to build connections, trust, and more importantly relationships each other as teachers, and with students, parents, and the professional community.

While I’ve been working towards this mission, I’m proud to announce that I’ve taken on the role of Executive Director of The Writing Project to champion our mission.

The Writing Project provides a platform for students, educators, and passionate writers to engage with each other and publish their writing. We have a passionate focus on social, cultural, and historical issues. It is our core mission to amplify voices that rarely get attention, on issues that aren’t often discussed out loud in education.

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Our organization also provides a tool to help you become a better writer. 

Last month we ran a Social Media Literacy campaign, where we had many educators and teachers share their thoughts on what Social Media Literacy means to them. Check out this post by YCDSB high school English teacher Sandra Coniglio on Using Social Media in The Classroom. What’s so impactful about this work, is that by amplifying what teachers are doing in their classrooms, teachers will be more empowered, inspired, and motivated to empower student voice, as they see the direct impact it can have on them.

A few weeks ago, we also worked on Global Storytelling with students. This was such a powerful project to participate in, because we were able to see the direct implications it has on students, identity, and how they view themselves in this world.

Advocacy in education is needed now more than ever.

For many of our most disadvantaged students, there is no place to go to voice their thoughts, ideas, and opinions about this world, or even their own worlds surrounding them. That’s why it’s so important for me to create that space in education for students and teachers, as it can have such a powerful impact on students advocacy for themselves about real issues they care about on a day to day basis.

Moving on from teaching in the classroom to being an entrepreneur has not been an easy task. I am learning so much about product management, marketing, design thinking, and solutions-based thinking, and much of this is totally out of my comfort zone. However, this learning is my own growth in helping me realize that being an educator and impacting students and the system, does not necessarily only happen inside the classroom.

We can make a difference as educators outside the classroom. We need the support to know that it’s okay to look for solutions to our problems outside of the classroom.

Lastly, during frosh week we asked students what literacy means to them, and their answers really brought it home that what they consider literacy, is often rarely discussed or written about in the classroom. This is why providing the space for advocacy, cultural, social and historical issues in education can make such a big difference in students’ writing and work.

If you’re interested in working together and/or would like to know more about The Writing Project, feel free to get in touch with me here.

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