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The “You Matter” Manifesto in Education

by Justin Marquis Ph.D.

One of the underlying but often unspoken themes of this blog is the idea that the individual matters in this crazy, hectic, techno-centric world. Teachers matter, students matter, administrators matter, higher education faculty matter, adjunct instructors matter, online educators matter, and the individual out there seeking a place in the world also matters. This hidden agenda in the writing on Education Unbound was the reason that Angela Maiers’ You Matter Manifesto immediately demanded a post in this space.

Maiers, a former classroom and university teacher and now the owner and lead consultant for Maiers Education Services, has started a movement to make people who otherwise feel insignificant believe that they matter (Maiers, About). Her focus as an educator lends special meaning to the words "You Matter" in a time when students, teachers, and educators in general are constantly being told that they do not matter by drastic education cuts, school closings, and a general feeling of apathy surrounding one of our most important social institutions. Here is a closer look at the You Matter Manifesto and what these two simple words could mean to educators.

1. YOU ARE ENOUGH
"Do you even realize how much difference you can make? You don’t have to be rich or famous; there is no age limit or specific skill set to acquire. Your presence- your essence- your passion is enough. You already have what it takes to make the world a better place" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

This point is relevant both for students and educators as students need to know that each individual’s interests and academic focus is valid and valuable and should be acknowledged and supported by the education sytem. For educators, there is seldom any recognition of the work that they do and the valuable service that they provide to society. Both groups can benefit from hearing that who they are and what they offer are valuable components of the collective.

2.  YOU HAVE INFLUENCE
"Knowing you can make a difference in the world is sometimes scary to accept. To realize you can literally alter the path of the world is a bit overwhelming. Yet it’s important to accept the influence you own. Whether you accept it or not, you’re changing the course of humanity. The degree to which you do so is entirely up to you" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

Every educator believes this when they start in their profession, but they quickly lose it as the daily grind and external pressure makes their profession seem monotonous and small. Educators really do have a profound influence on the students they interact with. From increasing each student’s annual lifetime earning potential (PBS News Hour, 6 Jan. 2012), to fostering a love of learning which benefits everyone, teachers help to make the world the place we all hope it can be.

3. YOU ARE A GENIUS
"Seth Godin defines genius as the act of solving a problem in a way no one has solved it before. It has nothing to do with winning a Nobel Prize in physics or certain levels of schooling. It’s about using human insight and initiative to find original solutions that matter. The question is: Have you ever done that?" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

Innovation is what Maiers is discussing in this point and it is one of the most important outcomes for education. When broken free of the constraints of standardized curriculums and tests, teachers can foster this skill in their students by encouraging interdisciplinary thinking and an entrepreneurial focus.

4. YOU HAVE A CONTRIBUTION TO MAKE
"The size of the contribution you make is not what matters most. What counts is the effort. We have a responsibility to seek ways to contribute, large and small" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

Effort is something we seem to have largely put by the wayside in an always on, connected, "tune in and tune out" society. Everyone is looking for the quick fix, or waiting for their 15 minutes of fame without making a conscious effort to obtain the goals they wish to reach. Educators, faced with a constant need to perform in the classroom, are amongst the notable exceptions and need to be lauded for their efforts. Acknowledging them as role models will help to inspire students to try harder to reach their goals.

5.  YOU HAVE A GIFT THAT OTHERS NEED
"Happiness and love are the two greatest gifts you can give to the world. Too often, we’re too indulged in our own gratifications – we forget there are people in this world whom we can make a little happier and feel more loved" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

There can be no doubt that educators do what they do out of love – both for their students and for the subject matter that they teach. That passion is tempered by a world that shows them nothing but criticism and bureaucratic handcuffing. Showing an educator an appreciative smile for the work that they do is the first step in revitalizing the passion that they feel for their profession and making education a happier and more enjoyable experience for everyone.

6. YOU ARE THE CHANGE
"Sometimes it is in the small encounters with others that we recognize that matter, that our presence is important. A shared smile, an unexpected kindness, leaving each encounter with another positive. It is in these small moments we find opportunity to make the choice to matter. In doing so, we create the relationship, we create the change. We make the world a better place" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

Playing off of the famous Gandhi misquote, Maiers wants each individual to actively strive to make a difference in the world. In education this difference making can come from students, teachers, or the community surrounding educational institutions. If we want our children to have a better education, we should strive to create the circumstances in our homes that will make them better prepared to be well educated in schools and universities. Start by reading to young children; interact with older ones as responsible humans; and supporting formal education as an important priority.

7. YOUR ACTIONS DEFINE YOUR IMPACT
"Action is the world’s greatest currency. If you choose to remain passive in how you live, you still have an impact. If you choose to remain quiet on issues that drive you, that too influences humanity. There is no one best time to start to make a difference to the world. You don’t need to wait till you have the time; you don’t have to wait till you make more money; you don’t have to wait to let someone know they matter. Start with these two words, and you will know how much that  little efforts counts today" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

This one is for the politicians and education policy makers who say they support education and want to make it better while simultaneously cutting funding and implementing rules that prevent current teachers from doing their jobs and discourage new teachers from entering the field. As those responsible for electing these officials, we are also complicit in their actions that are destroying education. We need to take our own action to support education and educators and show politicians that we support an excellent education for every student.

8. YOU MATTER!
"In the big scheme of things – you make a difference. A big difference. The world would be a very different place – a lesser place – without you" (Maiers, The You Matter Manifesto).

The final and most important point of the Manifesto is the one that is particularly poignant in a time of societal unrest over economic and social divisions that are marginalizing a significant percentage of our population. Every member of society needs to remember that we are a society, with all that this implies. We work together and for each other to the mutual benefit of all. No individual is more valuable than any other, and we all MATTER. Education helps to mitigate these differences by creating a more just, diverse, and egalitarian society.

While the You Matter Manifesto is important for educators, its existence is even more important for the general public as an initial step in acknowledging the value of education and those who have dedicated their lives to providing it. Learning should be the core value of our society and efforts such as this help to provide a focus for understanding the real value that it provides for everyone.

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