Leading the way to 'Transformative Education': Lunch with Ashoka's CEO and Teacher-Changemakers

Submitted by: John Converse Townsend on 11/19/12

Ashoka recently announced its inagural class of Changemakers Schools. These schools—and, more importantly, the educators within them—proving that teaching skills like empathy, leadership and teamwork are what truly prepare students for the new global economy. Here, Laura White, a member of the Empathy Initiative and manager of the Changemakers Schools network, reports on a meeting between champions of a "transformative education": Bill Drayton and administrators at Georgetown Day School.

Looking around the table at our team lunch with the change leaders of Georgetown Day School at Ashoka's Global Headquarters, I was struck by the diversity of experiences represented. To my left was Kathryn Kerr, a fourth grade teacher who grew up in Hong Kong and Tokyo and has been teaching for 12 years. To my right was Todd Liu, a third grade teacher who is famous at GDS for immersing his students in a three-day trip back in time to the 1770s, through which students build empathy with our forefathers and foremothers by doing everything from building latrines to feeding farm animals. Across from me were Bobby Asher and Gloria Runyon, the GDS lower school principal, who has led her school to be one of the most prestigious and well-regarded in Washington, D.C. Then, of course, there was Bill Drayton, the visionary leader of Ashoka who has spent the past 31 years supporting entrepreneurs who are solving the world’s most pressing social problems, and there were Ashoka staff members, who had transformational experiences as young people that led them to work for an Everyone a Changemaker™ world. Between everyone at that lunch meeting, we had an entire lifetime of changemaking covered—from preschool, through adolescence, to adulthood.

Despite our diverse perspectives, everyone at the table was united by a fundamental belief that in order to create a world where every child grows up to be a changemaker, we must help them master empathy when they are young. Over the past 67 years, Georgetown Day School has worked hard to make this future a reality for their students. Boasting a number of innovative programs, including the Horn of Africa program Bobby Asher started as well as a comprehensive service-learning program, Georgetown Day School joined the Changemaker Schools cohort this fall to articulate the story of their school within the context of changemaking, amplify their best practices nationally, and grow with the support of the Ashoka network.

Indeed, the Georgetown Day School change leader team left the meeting with Bill Drayton with a number of ideas for continuing to move the field of changemaker education forward by innovating at their own school. A self-declared “private school with a public purpose,” GDS will be exploring new partnerships with D.C. public and charter schools, documenting the changemaker development progression from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and telling the stories of GDS parents who are changemakers.

We look forward to telling you more about GDS’s best practices and innovations in the months to come!

Photo: Flickr/namho