World Education Empathy Week: teachers changing the world
By Emma Westwood
Writer | Editor | Content & Digital Strategist
EdSmart is thrilled to be sponsoring World Education Empathy Week. Find out why we think it’s worth our support and yours.
As another round of school holidays approaches, one of Australia’s leading school principals, Gavin McCormack, is launching an initiative that gives teachers the opportunity to contribute an hour of their time over a seven-day period and deliver what he calls “their showpiece lesson” via an open-source Zoom link.
Aimed at a global audience of educators and students, the program — World Education Empathy Week, held from 20th to 24th September — is designed to inspire teachers and students alike by sharing innovative ways of teaching and learning.
An in-demand public speaker and presenter, Gavin explains that the idea for World Education Empathy Week was inspired by seeing the impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic on teaching and learning around the world, as well as some innovative approaches to learning he’d experienced closer to home in Australia.
“World Education Empathy Week was born from a conversation I had with a friend of mine, Richard Mills, who’s starting UpSchool – a school that will run online and will run anywhere in the world so anybody can access education, and for free,” Gavin explains. “I also did a keynote address recently for a conference in Ankara, Turkey. There are about 800 schools there that have been closed for 19 months, which is just crazy.”
The demands of remote education and online learning are leading to some serious fatigue in teaching ranks in other parts of the world. As Gavin sees it, there are only so many ways you can teach volcanoes until you’ve run out of ideas. But there are probably some amazing, innovative ways that other teachers around the world have found of doing it.
“After the long conversation with Richard,” he continues, “and looking at the impacts of closed schools in different parts of the world, I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve got access to so many teachers online who are wonderful and devoted and give their time for anything’.”
“So, I put a call out saying, ‘Hey look, in September, it’s school holidays in Australia and we’re not going to be open, most of us are just going to be stuck in our house. Why don’t we all give one hour of our time during that week; anytime they want, any age group they like, any subject they want and they just do their one-hour zoom lesson with an open-source zoom link.”
With the week intended for any teachers who want inspiration to teach online, the response to the initiative so far has been inspiring in itself. The initial call-out went out on a Saturday morning [Australian Eastern Standard Time] and, by lunchtime that day, 2,500 people from all corners of the globe had registered their interest.
Gavin teaches a toddler in Karachi, Pakistan, where schools are closed
As well as these response levels, the calibre and diversity of educators committing their time and energy to World Education Empathy Week has excited Gavin as to what the initiative might ultimately achieve: “We’ve got professors in Colorado; we’ve got people in Iceland, in Botswana and in Madagascar giving lessons.”
“It’s going to be awesome just to jump in and out of the sessions and see what’s really happening,” says Gavin. “But, ultimately, the idea is to empower our community and share the power that we’ve got by trying to educate as many kids as possible in one week, for free. That’s the premise behind it.”
As much as the program is an opportunity for teachers, Gavin is keen to reassure that students reap the benefits of this unique global collaboration: “Anybody who can’t get to school who wants access to free education in that week can basically tune in, and you can pick and choose the lessons you want to drop into. You click on the timetable and – boom! – there’s Barb in Massachusetts teaching ‘Fun with Fractions’ for Year 2s.”
As Gavin muses, “There’s never a time where anyone can’t go to school. I did a lot of work in northern India and Nepal. They have amazingly fast internet connections but they have no schools — or the schools they have are just old rooms filled with dust. But, if you’ve got a mobile phone in your hand or a tablet, as most people do in the world, and you’ve got the Internet, well, you can go to school all day every day and with modern technology.”
“With the online platforms that are out there, you can literally have such an amazing educational experience. I see a window of opportunity to educate the masses, especially while schools are closed, so let’s see how big we can get this thing! I have a feeling it can grow and that, over the years, it will become bigger and bigger.”
Amid a lot of negativity in these pandemic times, Gavin believes that teachers are offering hope and making an amazing difference in their classrooms – whether in-person or otherwise. When teachers come together in a movement like World Education Empathy Week, there’s an opportunity to literally change the world.
“Hopefully, this will demonstrate to the children of tomorrow that, when we work together and collaborate, we can do anything we put our mind to.”