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Next time you fret there aren’t enough resources at your child’s school, think of teacher Juárez Correa. 

Correa lives in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, a region cursed by the drug wars and plagued with violence. His school is referred to by some as “un lugar de castigo” — a “place of punishment” where rot from a massive pile of trash wafts into the classrooms. Internet access is spotty and poverty is rampant. But that didn’t stop Correa from pursuing the best for his students.

Correa learned about the hole in the wall teaching philosophy of Sugata Mitra, the 2013 TED Prize winner who believes the best way to educate kids is to leave them alone. Mitra gained worldwide recognition for his work in Indian slums, where he installed computers for mostly illiterate street kids and left them alone. Working together, the kids taught themselves how to use the computer and go online.

Mitra’s approach is digitally-driven: “If you put a computer in front of children and remove all other adult restrictions, they will self-organize around it like bees around a flower,” he told Wired magazine.

For years, Correa tried to teach unengaged students according to government-mandated curriculum. Then in 2011, inspired by Mitra’s work Correa walked into his classroom on the first day of school, re-arranged the chairs into small groups, and told his students they had one thing that made them equal with students in better-resourced schools all over the world: Potential.

Then he asked them what they wanted to learn.

Leaving his students in charge of their own learning, Juárez Correa’s class scored the highest test results in the country. His techniques also helped develop ‘extraordinary’ abilities in one student, Paloma Noyola Bueno.

You can learn more about Correa and Paloma’s story here. And draw even more inspiration by listening to Sugata Mitra’s terrific TED Talk below:

sources: Ted + Wired

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