The World of Invitational Education
“Invitational education” may be a new term to you, but you’ll recognize the concepts in this description:
- Creates a school environment that encourages everyone to see themselves as having unlimited potential.
- Encourages everyone to realize their full potential.
- Makes education a satisfying and enriching experience for all involved.
- Emphasizes trust, respect, optimism, intentionality, and self-esteem.
- Gets as many educators and schools as possible on the same wavelength.
The “invitational” part comes from the theory that everyone (from students to top administrators) is most effective when “invited” to participate in a way that shows others’ sincere confidence in them. This isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds. We don’t have to blatantly snub others to “disinvite” them; it generates the same effect when we “just assume” their capabilities are limited, or thoughtlessly ignore their preferences. Even a friendly hug can be perceived as a “disinvitation,” if applied outside the recipient’s comfort zone.
If we want to actively “invite” everyone to participate fully and to achieve maximum potential—what invitational-education theorists call “plus factor” inclusiveness—we have to know and appreciate everyone as individuals.
What are the essential elements of being an invitational-education advocate?
Unless your school system is extremely progressive, it’s going to be challenging to buck education traditions and start things moving in an “invitational” direction. If you’re just one teacher, don’t expect to convert the whole school board within a month. You have to start by really believing this is worth giving yourself to for the long run.
Closely related to believing in invitational education (or any cause) is believing in your own ability to make a big difference through ongoing small actions. Most people opt for the default position of going along with the status quo, on the rationalization that because nothing you do will make an immediate big difference, nothing you do makes any difference. A much more effective attitude is “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do” (Edward Everett Hale).
Assuming you have to start small, the first step is really getting to know the people you have direct influence over—your supervisors and colleagues as well as your students. Be willing to listen to anyone (without joining in pointless gossip or gripe sessions). Learn to understand others’ unique struggles and the pain behind bad attitudes. Help others look for and apply their personal interests and strengths. Above all, never devalue anyone’s opinions or personality traits simply because they differ from your own!
Personal Growth and Perseverance
However long your class/school/system has been working on invitational education; however effective your efforts seem at any immediate moment; there are two things to always remember:
- It’s too soon to give up.
- You still have plenty to learn.
Invite someone to teach you something today!