Sunday, June 21, 2015

What do we do now? A reaction to the atrocity in South Carolina

My head and Facebook feed are full of reactions from the atrocious event in Charleston, South Carolina.

Many of the reactions include emotional responses, commentaries, prayers, confessions of bewilderment, castigations of the media, comments on what it all means, ideas about who or what is to blame and lots and lots and lots of questions.

One dear friend simply asked, “What do we do now? As citizens of the world, not only of the United States, what do we do now?”

Who the heck knows? Cry? Lament? Get angry? Gnash our teeth? Fight?

Hatred manifested in this way often leaves me with many questions.

As an educator, I am apt to wonder about what role teachers play in responding to this crisis. Not the acute, specific event that took the lives of too many individuals, but to the chronic misunderstandings that exist between individuals and groups of people who think they are more different than not.


Educators, we must ask: “What do we need to teach children now, so that these events no longer take place?”

Currently, my thinking is that we must …

teach children to see themselves as citizens of the world.
teach children to recognize their common humanity.
teach children to celebrate diversity.
teach children to understand their shared responsibility of caring for the planet.
teach children to examine multiple perspectives.
teach children to investigate issues that affect us globally.
teach children to be self-aware.
teach children to be empathetic.
teach children to be tolerant.
teach children to be respectful.

teach children to be open-minded.
teach children to be caring.
teach children to ask questions when they don’t understand instead of reacting in hate.
teach children to see the need to know how others live.
teach children to openly talk AND listen.
teach children to take risks as they explore ideas, things, situations, perspectives and people new to them.
teach children to recognize the interdependence of all people who live in this world.
teach children to thoughtfully consider the world around them.
teach children to deeply think through complex problems.
teach children to act with a strong sense of justice.

Some will say that I’m being too cheesy or corny and that perhaps these ideas are not the answers to the problems that plague our world. But my IB friends will notice that I’m promoting the development of the IB learner profile and whereas this profile may have become standard nomenclature to many of us, it still represents the ultimate goal we have for our students: for them to become internationally-minded citizens of the world who recognize their common humanity so that they will create a better and more peaceful world.

If we decide that everything we do in the classroom with students must lead them to this goal, maybe we might make their world, if not the entire thing, just a little bit better.

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