When I first stumbled on VibrantEd back in 2021, I had no idea I was about to begin the most exciting journey of my professional life. I was working as a teacher in an all-project-based learning school at the time and been happy in that role for the 4 years I’d been there. I taught 11th grade humanities and loved seeing the urgency with which my students wanted to learn to write and communicate and to understand the history behind the social issues we addressed as a class. We helped the city develop a get-out-the-vote campaign for first-time voters, participated in a design competition for new public green space in our neighborhood, and created an immersive online experience to teach middle school kids about the second civil rights era, informed by oral histories from older people in our community.
Still, I was ready for a change. Amid my students’ success and inspiration, I could never shake the nagging feeling that the outside world was still mostly just humoring us, “letting” us contribute to causes and projects, not genuinely needing our contribution. If we decided to move on to another project tomorrow, our community partners would have been disappointed, but unaffected overall. Even in my school, which so valued real-world learning experiences, I think the students knew that they were still one layer removed from being the real agents of change.
VibrantEd removed that layer for me and the learners I work with today at Ubique Academy. I found a posting for a Social Innovation Portfolio Director, and I immediately knew this was what I needed to be doing with my life. My job now is finding community partners and social issues that need us, finding learner groups ready to take on the challenge, and facilitating the relationship between them. It was no easy task at the beginning. I had to coach the organizations to help them see the ways the students could authentically contribute and lead; I had to help the learners forget that layer between them and the “real world” make sure they understood just how much everyone was counting on them and how they were trying to solve a problem that generations of adults hadn’t been able to solve yet. Now that we’ve found our footing, it’s been nothing short of incredible to see adults and young people come together and develop solutions for some of our community’s most important problems.
If you’re on this site but unsure that you’ll ever find a place in education that fits you, I ask you not to give up. This site was created for people like you for me who know there’s more to teaching and learning than we’ve been told. The job you’re looking for is out there, and you can find it here.
Melanie Moody is the Social Innovation Portfolio Director at Ubique Academy. You can connect with her on twitter @mel4change1.