Changemaking in action: from the classroom to the school and beyond

Explore the transformative power of changemaking mindsets in grades 3 to 5, as Alyssa guides her students to become positive change agents within and beyond classroom walls, in a book collection initiative.

Colorful drawing of children holding books and reading
Source: Vitor Massao

Alyssa’s commitment to education has always been connected to changemaking. Now working at a Title I school as a special education teacher for grades 3 to 5, she navigates the unique needs of students residing in shelters, temporary housing, and grappling with diverse disabilities. As she started in this school, she carried with her a vision of being a changemaker. It wasn't just about equipping them with academic knowledge; it was about instilling a transformative mindset that they could carry into their futures: “I came to this school to give these students something to look forward to, something that they could take away with them when they leave my classroom into their own communities and be that positive change”, she says.

Navigating her classroom, she understood that fostering changemaking went beyond a mere skill; it was a mindset that, once ingrained, had the power to shape destinies. For her "changemaking is a mindset and if we have that mindset, we can bring about change". Through her guidance, and using the Time for Change resources, changemaking became a living, breathing concept, a mindset that transcended barriers and age, igniting a fire within her students. “There was a story on the resources with a boy that didn't have a leg. One of my students didn't have a hand. Using the materials, we were able to make the connection that he, too, can be confident and can be brave and inspire to others”, Alyssa shares. Students didn’t understand that disability or the reality of another student, within the autism spectrum. They didn’t want to be helpful or include these colleagues. After using the resources about kindness and understanding things changed. The bullying ceased and students shifted, taking their peers in, being kind to them.

Using literacy and tools like affirmation exercises, Alyssa brought the changemaking concepts to class igniting that internal shift in students. But these concepts were not confined to that environment and to internal changes alone; they were catalysts for real change, outside the classroom walls. It all started when they were faced with the question “How could they give back to the school as a fifth grader?”. They started with small things like recycling materials, giving extra materials to other classrooms. But they wanted bigger changes. So, students and teacher got together to create a project for the school’s library, finding donors who would finance new books. Soon, the shelves were brimming with new stories and the students were feeling confident and ownership over the initiative. As Alyssa describes, “we would go on First Book’website together to browse and select books for the library. Once we got the books, they would sort through them to see which ones would be better for each grade. They would also be in charge of letting me know when we needed to add more books, monitoring the number of books every Monday.” Their newfound initiative flowed beyond school gates, reaching their houses. “Students that didn't have books at home at all now have full libraries”, Alyssa shared.

As this initiative blossoms, students are already thinking of new challenges to tackle. School lunch will probably come next, since they would like to see healthier lunch options in the available menu. Alyssa evaluates that these new skills have helped her students identify problems in their environment and engage in solving them. The materials, quite friendly and easy to implement in classes in her point of view, have instilled confidence and empathy in students, as well as a sense of teamwork and action, all vital abilities for a changemaker.

As we journey alongside Alyssa’s experience, we witness the power of nurturing young minds and fostering change from within. Her story serves as an inspiring reminder that every classroom, no matter how humble, holds the potential to shape futures and inspire a generation of changemakers.