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The More Things Change …

For various reasons this  last week, I have found myself in a deeply reflective space.

I’ve walked again in an earlier me, revisiting events and experiences from 10-25 years ago.

I’ve unearthed diaries, letters and other mementos and spent time reading them. It is fascinating to have such a clear record of what I was thinking and feeling so long ago!

It’s good to reflect on how I believe I’ve grown, mellowed and matured over the years since then.  But it’s also true that some things just don’t change.

As an example, I thought I’d share a snippet of something I wrote almost 25 years ago – complete with the doodled sketches that graced (dis-graced?) those pages. :)

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Dreaming of World Peace

worldpeaceWorld peace .. does that sometimes seem an impossible dream?

Maybe.

We’re all human. We get cranky and annoyed. People irritate us – their actions hurt or anger us. And certain events in our lives lead to feelings of devasting pain, grief or anger.

We’ve all seen the effects of these things, either in our own lives or those of others around us. Depression, illness, substance abuse, violence – the list goes on.

And on a larger scale, deep hurt and anger can infect a household, a community or a nation. The cost of this is immeasurable in terms of human suffering.

But imagine what it might be like if, individually, we could transcend those feelings? What if, one by one, we could somehow find our own peace? And follow that up by reaching out a helping hand to heal the hurt and anger of those around us?

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Holding the Centre

I’ve just finished reading Iran Awakening, by Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

Subtitled A Memior of Revolution and Hope, it is an inspiring read!

Iran_Awakening_Shirin_EbadiAs I read, I was struck by the way in which Shirin Ebadi ‘holds the centre’ – that sometimes painful space where we stand in the centre of contradictions and paradox, yet resist the always present temptation to ‘take sides’ – to retreat to the more ‘comfortable’ space of certainty that one ‘side’ is more correct or more true.

As a lawyer and a speaker, she works tirelessly in the name of justice and she is certainly ‘on the side’ of justice and fairness in all respects – that much is evident.

But, although she abhors the injustices done to people by the various governments of Iran as well as those perpetrated by US intervention in her country, she nevertheless manages to remain ‘at the centre’.
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One Voice in the Crowd

So often we think we can’t do much to make the world a better place. We look at the enormity of the task and think “What on earth can I do about it? Who am I, after all?  Just one voice in the crowd!”

But here’s great little video I came across on You Tube, thanks to a friend who sent me the link. It reminds us that little things can make a big difference – if enough of us come together to do them!  Even as one voice in the crowd, we can help to swell the tide of change.

Visit the We Are What We Do website for more information.

One brick in the wall you may be, one voice in the crowd
But without you we are weaker and our song may not be heard
One drop in the ocean, but each drop will swell the tide
So be your one brick in the wall, be one voice in the crowd

And we are foolish people who do nothing
Because we know how little one person can do
Yes we are foolish people who do nothing
Because we know how little one can do

(Lyrics from One Voice in the Crowd, by Judy Small)

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A Passionate Plea

Imagine ….

KeysYou enter an organisation and sign in. You’re given keys to hang around your neck or clip to your belt. There’s A Block, B Block, perhaps even H Block. You unlock each door as you enter and lock it again as you leave. Any infractions of the rules by the inmates mean they ‘go on report’.

It’s a prison or a juvenile justice centre, right?

Wrong!

It’s a large, modern high school.

And in some of the classrooms in these modern schools, teaching and learning are still following models that were in place over thirty years ago.

Sure, there are whiteboards instead of blackboards – but students still copy reams of notes from the board. The textbooks may now be in full glossy colour with new information – but many of them are being used in the same ways they were used all those years ago. All the students are doing the same thing at the same time from the same textbook.

Teacher-centred learning, policing of uniforms and ‘out of bounds’ areas, a focus on the rules and processes for detentions, suspensions and expulsions.

In these classrooms and schools, how are students engaged, connected and encouraged to experience a love of learning? How do teachers retain the ‘fire in the belly’ – the passion for their craft – and avoid falling victim to the ‘don’t smile till Easter’ brigade?

Where is the 21st Century learning? Where are multi-age classrooms, multi-ability learning, problem-solving, students being involved in decision-making about their own learning, self-reflection and self-assessment? Where are the creative uses of the wonderful new technology that’s available?

TeacherIt’s certainly out there! In many schools there are individual teachers who are inspiring their students. Who are reflecting, dreaming, collaborating, implementing fresh and exciting inititiatives. And there are students who are fully engaged and encouraged to become the best they can be.

And there are whole schools around the world doing things differently to make a very real difference for both students and teachers.

For example,  there’s Thembaletu Primary School in George, about 450 km from Cape Town in Africa, which has 25 teachers, 983 students –  and only 20 computers!  Here the Principal is leading the way in the use of technology, changing classroom practice and changing the face of learning for both teachers and students.

There are schools like Sherbrooke Community School, in Melbourne, Australia, where curriculum is negotiated with the students, there’s a whole-school meeting every morning that’s chaired and minuted by students, and student learning becomes increasingly self-directed as they go through the school.

Or  Heathside School in the UK, where the “Imagine Heathside” project involved all those in the school community in co-creating a better future.

So here’s my plea to all those teachers who are energizing our schools …

Wherever you are, shout out. Please tell your stories, and encourage your students to tell theirs. The world needs to hear your voices!

And please don’t let the pressures or constraints of ‘the system’ get you down or burn you out. Know that the work you are doing is appreciated and is making a difference.

Your experience, your skills and your wisdom are sorely needed today – perhaps more than ever.

We need you.

Our children and our young people need you.