This generation is not given the appropriate credit for their intention, their tolerance and their commitment to making the world a better place. Perhaps, the overwhelming inability for the baby-boomers, Generation X and all others to effectively bridge divides to solve problems of common concern has translated to a deep motivation for students to push themselves to realize that the solutions will only be found within themselves and each other. It is almost as if they look at the arbitrary divisions that prevented resolution in years past and shrug dismissively at those divisions as inconsequential. From climate-change and sexual orientation to political persuasion, students seem to be more than willing to bridge divides that had previously been too vast. Despite all this progress, there are still significant areas that students struggle to see through an empathetic and understanding lens. Most of these deficiencies involve foreign affairs and geopolitics. USIP’s Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators has provided a set of foundational tools that are well-suited to help me extend students’ enthusiasm and natural tendency to solve problems beyond their natural abilities and comfort zones to a more challenging and diverse range of topics.
Unfortunately for my students, they are my students, and the overwhelming inertia of everything other than the work of peacebuilding has prevented the implementation of the Toolkit in a more sustained and deliberate manner. My original intention was to focus on balancing the peacebuilding curriculum one day every two weeks within the human geography curriculum I have been tasked with implementing. September started off well, until irregular schedules led to a day missed, then a shortened week meant catching up, and the calendar all of a sudden read November. For me, being a teacher is, and has always been, an exercise in managing the guilt of constantly knowing that all I am doing could be better than it is and having the perpetual disappointment of feeling underprepared and overwhelmed with a million effective strategies that will never make it to my students. At many points this year it leaves me wanting to call it quits. My intentions as a Peace Teacher and the reality are two entirely different stories; such are the intentions of every teacher who cares about student learning.
The great thing about being a teacher is that every day provides another opportunity to turn the corner. My students are eager to learn, curious to explore the wider world and constantly excited to pivot back to the peacebuilding curriculum or debating complex issues that older “wiser” folks too often shy away from. The truth is my objectives as a Peace Teacher can all still be achieved, and I have every intention of accomplishing them over the balance of the year. But the sacrifice necessary is real, and it is up to me to meet those objectives through deliberate and sustained effort. I am confident that my students will continue to keep me motivated and on the path toward building the better world that they are all so enthusiastically committed to creating.
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Learn more about the USIP Peace Teacher program.