“I touch the future, I teach.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

-Ronald Reagan,

January 28th, 1986. A day I can pinpoint as the day I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had spent a contemplative day as a 10th grader wondering how something like this could have happened. A beautiful blue sky, a sun splashed background, and those brave astronauts heading off to further the exploration of the great frontier. All destroyed as two rockets spiraled off into different directions in the Florida sky.

Aboard that mission was Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a teacher who had hoped to inspire her students and other teachers around the world. Well, you did Christa. You reached the eyes, ears, and heart of a young boy in Cheektowaga, NY who knew that day that my youthful dream of becoming an astronaut had now morphed into a goal of one day “teaching” in the way that Christa seemed to.

As I became older and did realize that goal 8 years later, the first thing I placed on my desk was a framed print of that most famous quote which is often attributed to her: “I touch the future, I teach.” Alongside this, I always kept handy another of her quotes–perhaps even more prophetic: “I have a vision of the world as a global village, a world without boundaries”

Twenty three years have passed in my career. And in these times I think about Christa and my inspiration a lot. Do I in fact still touch the future? It is indisputable on a day to day basis I interact with students in a positive manner, and will have an impact upon their future lives–but do I touch the future anymore? Education, life, social interaction, and our global community have changed so much in the past decade and has changed exponentially since that January morning in Florida so long ago. Have I adapted as a teacher in a way to keep up with that change? Or, am I preparing students for a future that I envisioned in 1986, or 1994?

What tools do I give my students to give them a chance in their futures? Do I give them collaborative skills? Or do I teach them that they will succeed based on their own individual skill. Do I give them the ability to find solutions to problems? Or do I give them the solution. Do I give them the ability to locate information and learn while distinguishing among multiple sources? Or do I give them the facts they “Have to know”.

Am I still preparing them for the “Future” I had always hoped to “touch”.

I hope so.

Books like “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros, (http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5715)  resources such as http://www.Edutopia.com and the Buck Institute, and countless educators I can follow on Twitter point me in the direction of the future. In our profession, it is so easy to bury ourselves in a protective layer of habit and self-preservation. We forget our passion. We forget why we did this in the first place, and trade it for a myriad of variables we never once considered when we decided we wanted to teach.

If we are afraid of the future, how can we prepare students for it? How can we “touch” it? Embrace change. Embrace technology. Embrace the passion these young students have–and don’t sell them short. They know, and can do, so much more than many give them credit for.

I have signed up for The #InnovatorsMindset MOOC Starting February 27, 2017 (#IMMOOC) and I am hoping to be inspired, and find like minded individuals who believe what Christa believed 31 years ago. We can touch the future—IF we teach.

~Rich V (@ICSMrV34 )

Teacher in Space, 1986

Innovator’s Mindest

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