1. What grades and subjects do you teach?
I teach high school seniors in a course called Senior Seminar that is a government, economics, and ethics interdisciplinary course. I am also the K-12 Director of Global Education at our school, where I focus on bringing global perspectives into our curriculum and into the lives of our students and faculty.
2. How does your work as an educator contribute to peacebuilding locally or globally?
I focus on working with students and teachers to understand the perspective of someone from a different background or in a different global context. I do this through providing readings and curriculum focused on global issues and connections with people who can share their experiences, such as guest speakers or primary sources. I also do this through connecting students in a meaningful way to their peers at our various partner schools around the world. I think understanding that multiple perspectives exist, even conflicting ones, within a group of people that also have commonality and some shared experience is a solid foundation for peacebuilding both locally and globally.
3. Why is it important for young people to learn about global issues of conflict and peace, and to learn peacebuilding skills? Can you share some examples of how you incorporate these themes into your classroom?
It is essential for students to discuss what is going on in the world today, and I find that students are extremely interested in exploring and learning about conflict and global issues. They consistently express frustration over the lack of opportunity to wrestle with current global events in their high school coursework. I believe that facilitating meaningful and in-depth discussion on global issues, where multiple perspectives are brought in, is the first step toward peacebuilding. Classrooms and school programs that focus on project-based learning and true collaboration skills are the next step. The final step is providing students the opportunity to put these skills into practice in a context that is beyond the classroom. This can range from engaging with people in different locations, using guest speakers or technology, to creating programs for dialogue on campus focused on challenging issues.
For example, we have a course that focuses on global challenges as part of the Senior Seminar program this semester. This course empowers students to research pressing global challenges in an in-depth way, create interactive ways to teach their peers about these challenges, and practice facilitating intense discussion involving multiple perspectives on these topics. As part of this course, in partnership with a student club, the students organized a one-day event called the Global Issues Forum, which brought together students from multiple local high schools to hear from speakers and share what they are doing at their own high schools to tackle issues focused on human rights. Students shared examples of actions tackling refugee issues in Richmond, human-trafficking in Richmond and beyond, and water access issues in the developing world.
4. What advice can you give other teachers about incorporating global issues of conflict and peace into their classrooms?
Many students are hungry to discuss conflicts around the world and want to understand how these conflicts are connected to the United States and our policies. There is ample opportunity to bring in some of these lessons and discussions into classes across disciplines, including science, history, English, and even math and the arts. For example, this past week, we had a student presentation on the teenage recruitment tactics of ISIS, but topics discussed in the class ranged from freedom of expression as a human right to the role of social media in the lives of young people today to the sanitation challenges of refugee camps. Connecting course material to what is happening in the world today and generating projects based on problem-solving or solution-seeking skills will not only get the students fully engaged, it will help them be peace-makers in their futures in whatever profession or life-path they choose.
*Public Education at USIP was honored to take part in the Global Issues Forum by facilitating two workshops for student participants.