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Fearless of Limits: How to Drive the SDGs as a Young Teacher

Written by Anthony De la Rosa Valdiviezo, Global Schools Advocate from Ecuador.

When I received the notification from the Global Schools Program (GSP) that I had been accepted into their Advocates cohort, I was thrilled because that meant I had the opportunity to learn more about global issues affecting our planet, social inequality, economic development for exclusive sectors, or the lack of awareness about environmental action. And so it was, I had contact with incredible teachers from different parts of the world who had similar or even greater problems, whether within their schools, communities, or country in general.

Initially, I was very motivated by everything I was learning within the program during its training phase. However, for me, the most crucial moment was the implementation phase. During this time, I had to replicate everything I had learned in executable activities within the school where I work, that is, introduce, teach, and apply the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) according to our needs.

This was not easy for me. After all, in my culture, there are many questions about young people in leadership positions, among which are mentioned: inexperience, ignorance of relevant topics, lack of judgment, lack of commitment, or that we have little to contribute to older people, not to mention the little seriousness that is given to us when we propose and carry out a work plan. 

Nonetheless, after much work facing these challenges and confronting the social stereotypes, I successfully graduated and started a unique journey. Now, I'm happy to provide guidance to young educators who may have a similar experience. 

Overcoming Obstacles

As mentioned, my advocacy journey wasn’t easy due to societal pressure. I had internal fears during the process. However, by following some steps, I was lucky enough to overcome them. For example, I was able to discuss my fears with the Advocates from South America. Additionally, since I was the youngest in the Advocates group in the region, I sought advice from people with more experience.

On the other hand, I saw enormous potential in the students at my school. Despite their economic limitations, they made a great effort to study and succeed, thanks to the support of their families. Because of that, I wanted to give my best, and I believed that with the SDGs, we would gradually achieve better results.

I was very motivated to carry out the plan no matter what. Even though I wanted to work with all the classrooms, that was not possible, but I was lucky enough that some teachers allowed me their space and the opportunity to work together. This moment was significant, as it was the first time I was going to lead such a large-scale work idea, and it was a real challenge for me. In this reflective process, I told myself: “I must try, besides, what is the worst that can happen? That they say «no»?” I preferred receiving rejection for trying rather than living with the anguish of never trying.

The first person I spoke to about the idea of implementing the SDGs in the classroom was the principal of my school. She was very open to my work plan and was very happy that it could be applied in our institution. Subsequently, we talked to the academic team, which consisted of 3 fellow teachers, and they gave me very accurate suggestions for how we could work with all the teachers.

In the following days, we talked to all the teachers. I introduced GSP’s mission, my role as an Advocate within the organization, and the latent need to introduce the SDGs within our educational institution. For this, we evaluated the most common problems that arise in the institutional community, among which were:

  • Violence and dysfunctional homes.

  • Lack of job opportunities.

  • Low awareness of environmental care.

Thanks to all these actions, I was able to break the stereotypes and show, through my own journey, how successful youth educators can be in taking action. 

The Outcomes

Since initiating and adapting the planning with the SDGs, we have achieved many milestones in my school community. For example, thanks to these efforts, we decided to start working on the Environmental Care area through the development of an Interdisciplinary Project with the general theme of "Caring for our school environment for harmonious coexistence," in which each teacher from each grade had to execute it with their students involving no fewer than two subjects, with the result being a final product for the benefit of the students and the entire institution.

Similarly, at the end of the school year, we all prepared a fair where each student had the opportunity to present their incredible work. Some made products with recycled materials, some others implemented trash bins to classify waste, and my students and I planted trees to have green areas for everyone to enjoy. Although each had their own take on sustainability, the most important thing was that we were all aware that, through the different projects, we were achieving one or more SDGs.

Another positive outcome was when I met with the institution's Student Council, and we discussed the goals (regarding the SDGs) that most caught their attention. These were Goals 14, 1, and 6: Life Below Water, No Poverty, and Clean Water and Sanitation, respectively. To raise awareness, students made some incredible posters and engaged in discussions on how they could share information about the SDGs and their importance with their peers.

Lastly, my classroom participated in a recycling campaign organized by early childhood teachers to raise funds for improving the playground area. This is a true example of the impact of Sustainable Development, generating economic resources in an environmentally friendly way.

Final Takeaways

Looking back, I realized that all the sacrifices I made were worth it. Although I initially encountered some resistance in implementing the work plan, I had the support of the school principal, the academic team, and the South American Advocates group, who helped me greatly. Can you imagine what would have happened if I hadn't decided to execute my work plan just because I was the youngest teacher in the institution? I believe we wouldn't have achieved even half of what I've discussed in this blog.

This is a natural way of shaping ourselves as we encounter many challenges, whether from society or from negative thoughts that hinder our progress. But life itself puts the right people in our path to make us better human beings in every aspect of our lives.

Finally, I want to conclude this blog with a special message for two groups of people:

  • If you are an experienced individual and someone less experienced seeks your advice, don't hesitate to offer your help. Perhaps those new ideas will inspire a large group and bring about a significant revolution.

  • If you are a young person starting out in any area of your life, I encourage you to take that first big step and overcome your fears. You will surely have someone with more experience to support and guide you towards your goal. Remember, it's better to face rejection for having tried than to live with the regret of never having tried. You can do it!