Angela Maiers You Matter!

AngelaAngela Maiers is a teacher at her core, and a driving force for sharing with kids, teachers, and everyone how and why they matter. She has more energy than most, which may go back to her beginnings as a kindergarten teacher. Maiers lights up a room, presentation, and this interview.

Every learner, no matter age, wants to be successful and they want to matter. They want their learning to be something—towards something. ~ Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers on Twitter)

Connect Learning Today: Where did the You Matter start?

Angela Maiers: When you spend time teaching kindergartners, 5-year and 6-year olds, they’re very explicit about telling you what they need. Every single one of them needs to hear his/her name, or you need to point out something awesome about them each day. No matter how small, you can’t miss pointing out those milestone moments in their lives. When you do, you understand that they demand to matter.

I moved up the grade levels—3rd graders, 4th graders, 5th graders and eventually college. You’d think that only 5-year olds wanted to matter, be noticed—want you to know they are valuable. You learn quickly, though, that this is a human need. To matter isn’t about inspiration, self-esteem, or making people feel good—friends can do that. To matter is, instead, a human need, like water, food or shelter. But kindergartners have helped me put language to this invisible human need. Kids can teach us a lot about life and leadership. They have such a natural and pure way—of knowing who they are, and how they see the world.

Connect Learning Today: How do you go from teaching kindergartners to where you are today?

Angela Maiers: I thought my whole life would be teaching in a classroom with students. I naturally began working with their families. I’ve always been passionate about literacy, and actually have a background in neuroscience, so I was able to bring the literacy, along with the science, and culture—together. I studied, researched and began teaching at university level, where I received an award for doing it. Part of the award was that I needed to present my research at conferences. So, I began speaking a few times a year. As I did, I began to get requests from schools to speak. Eventually, I had a request to write a book on the research I was doing. Six books later I took a sabbatical—and never looked back. I’m sort of a doctoral dropout. In between all of that, social media came about.

Connect Learning Today: How important was that new social media for you?

Angela Maiers: I started moving my practice from journaling, to learning out loud, to collaborating and sharing—just doing that—not really understanding the social web at all. I was just elevating, and evolving my practices from what I did offline to online. That changed my entire life, and my entire career path. Because of it, I now find myself at education conferences, and social media technology conferences and leadership events. It all still comes down to that I don’t do, or say, anything differently than I did when I was in front of 5-year olds.

Connect Learning Today: Now, you’re doing it with social media, so how do you find that as the vehicle for conversation and change?

Angela Maiers: It’s life changing; it’s world changing. It’s really important, too, because the foundation of who I am is helping those, who don’t have a voice. People think that literacy is just about reading and writing. Literacy has always been about power and privilege. Giving the powerless power, and giving the unprivileged new privileges has been my mission for twenty-five years. Social media allows me to do that at scale.

The problem is to let young people know about literacy. When they do, they can’t wait to be readers and writers. There are people, who have fought for that for centuries. We have an entire population, who don’t know they should be fighting for this human right. They don’t know they’re not literate. So, social media, to me has always been about literacy and not technology.

Connect Learning Today: How do you do that?

Angela Maiers: I think that I’m reminding everyone, not just kids, who they actually are. I ask kids all the time what their genius is. I think part of my role is liberating the genius of others around me. It’s giving people a front row seat to their own brilliance, and actually naming it in a way they haven’t named it. Part of helping students grow is being able to recognize and honor who they are right now. I don’t see kids as leaders in training.

I see teachers as already leading. My job is to label how they’re leading effectively, so they can amplify and refine that. That’s always how I’ve seen it. Kindergartners and 1st graders demand you know who they are. If you don’t notice their genius, or miss one thing about their awesomeness, they will let you know! They don’t do it with ego; they just know they were born to make an impact. And that’s how Choose to Matter came about.

Connect Learning Today: What is Choose to Matter?

Angela Maiers: Well, it began at a social media event; I do about sixty of those a year—one was a TED event. I was just hoping not to fall off the stage! I didn’t think it would talk to more than my friends and family, but it went viral. What was really weird, the talk was just about what I’ve said to you, “You Matter!”

It’s part of our DNA. When people don’t think they matter, they lose a sense of themselves. They lose creativity, productivity, and efficiency. It’s an economic issue as much as it is an emotional issue. Ordinary people are really extraordinary, but genius needs a reason to show up. It’s hard work; it’s not easy. It’s telling the real story, and not just the story we tell everyone. It’s life transformative and a significant accelerator of innovation.

When people pursue something bigger than themselves, or for a bigger cause, innovation happens at a rate we’ve never seen in education before. Choose to Matter takes compassion-driven innovation into schools to ask students what they’re gong to do, how they’re going to contribute, and how they’re going to lead. It takes sharing with kids that we need their contribution, and that they can make an impact. There are problems in the world that break our hearts, and we just need enough innovative contributors to solve them. When people know they matter, and their actions count, lives change, learning changes, and the world changes.

Connect Learning Today: Thank you Angela for making us matter today!

Editor’s note: Discover more about Angela Maiers: AngelaMaiers.com.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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