11 Tips for Creating Your Own Humane Education Program

One of the most powerful ways to help create a humane world is by engaging students in thinking critically and creatively about humane issues. But how do you go about doing that? One way is to start your own humane education program, giving presentations and teaching classes and workshops in schools and similar venues. There are several regional humane education programs in the U.S. and abroad, focused on introducing young people to the impacts of their choices and the power they have to create a just, compassionate, sustainable world. Interested in doing the same? Here are 11 tips for helping you develop your own humane education program.

  1. Make sure it’s right for you. Do you like and understand kids? Can you handle the chaos of a classroom atmosphere? Are you friendly and approachable, with a sense of humor? Are you ready for the uncertainty and bustle of giving six presentations in one day and none at all the next week? Do you feel comfortable guiding students through explorations of a variety of issues? Can you compassionately cope with strong emotions and conflict? Does the thought of being teacher, counselor, marketer, sociologist, philosopher, networker and office manager appeal to you? These are all essential elements of a humane educator who’s going to be working with youth.
  2. Learn your way around the education world. There are a whole slew of standards, policies, political hoops and teacher skills that it can really benefit you to know. If your only experience with education is your own schooling, consider visiting several schools, talking to teachers and principles, and taking some time to learn the ropes. You may want to take more formal courses, such as our Sowing Seeds Online course or even our Certificate program to help you gain knowledge, skills and confidence in speaking and working with students, parents, teachers and administrators.
  3. Educate yourself about the issues. You wouldn’t teach a foreign language without knowing it well. Be sure that you’re reading a variety of authors and perspectives, learning about the connections among humane issues, and keeping updated on news and changes in these areas. You could also volunteer for one or more non-profit groups to help increase your knowledge and experience.
  4. Choose your audience and format. What grades/ages will you focus on? Public school programs? After school programs? Churches? Will you be creating a special summer camp? Teaching home schoolers? Will you offer one-shot presentations or a series on certain topics, or both?
  5. Create an age-appropriate core curriculum. Decide what few topics would best fit both your own strengths, expertise and interests and the interests of your audience (and their teachers) and then choose or create a core set of presentations. Be sure that your presentations offer the 4 elements of humane education, and that they’re lively, interactive, respectful and positive. There are plenty of activities available to use or adapt (such as IHE’s humane education activities), and a variety of relevant resources that can enhance your teaching, such as videos (be sure they’re appropriate). Once you’re confident, comfortable and successful with your handful of programs, you can then consider adding a few new ones, based on current events or the interests of students/teachers. If you look at the presentations that the regional programs offer, you’ll see that they stick to a solid core that covers a variety of topics.
  6. Determine the details. What are you going to call your program? (something that’s clear, inviting, positive and marketable –- and make sure that it’s not already taken) How often do you want to give presentations and to what age groups? What kinds of promotional items are you going to create to market yourself (brochures, business cards, website, etc.)? Are you going to charge money? Are you going to connect your programs to state standards? Are you willing to offer additional post-presentation resources, such as lists of suggested books and websites or extension lesson plans? How will you evaluate the success of your program? Be sure to address all those little details that can make or break your program.
  7. Practice practice practice. Practice your public speaking. Have friends and colleagues help you role-play addressing conflict or challenging questions. Hold mock conversations with “teachers” and “administrators” to woo them into inviting you to their school. Give your presentations/lesson plans to a safe audience of supporters and have them give feedback. Videotape yourself and watch for ways to improve. Just like you’re now a pro at tying your shoes and driving your car, you’ll become a pro humane educator by practicing frequently.
  8. Make connections. Whom do you already know who might be able to help you connect with schools? Also think about which schools and teachers are more likely to be open to humane education presentations: Alternative or magnet schools? Home school groups? Social studies, health & science instructors? Language arts? Speech and communications? Librarians? Consider not just an email or letter to the selected teachers and principle at a school; make an appointment to visit in-person, so that they can get to know you, and so that you can let them know why your program is such a plus for them. (Developing some talking points about the benefits really helps.) Once you’ve given presentations for some teachers, you can ask them to recommend you to others.
  9. Focus on flexibility. Are your programs age-adaptable? What if your audience of 20 becomes an audience of 80? You’re speaking to elementary kids as well as college students? You were promised 60 minutes but they’ve only given you 30? Flexibility is an essential element of a successful humane education program. Work to be well-prepared and organized, so that you can handle any situation with calm, confidence and compassion.
  10. Get support. There are already many humane educators teaching in their schools and communities. Connect with them for tips, suggestions and advice. Also focus on getting support from people in your own community, to help you practice, to provide you with leads, to share their skills in helping your program become a success.
  11. Go for it! It can be scary and intimidating to launch a humane education program, but once you’ve done the preparation, don’t let your concern over not being good or ready enough stop you. The only way you’re really going to get good at this is to do it. So, take a deep breath and begin!

For more in-depth information about starting your own humane education program:

~ Marsha
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