*The following blog was written by the teacher in charge of the Lenten Project at Christ the King, in Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada. Please note the comments below are entirely the opinions of the teacher at Christ the King and do not reflect Gua Africa's.*
Written by: Mrs Mellow (pictured in the above photo standing front row to the right).
I've always been a "teacher". It's just who I am. However, what exactly is a teacher?
It started when I was young and I would teach my sisters, both older and younger, new things. I always wanted them to know what I knew and I wanted to help them discover new things. I felt the need to "show them the way", to encourage them to find answers, to inspire them to do good things, to learn more things. This later led me to coaching baseball and basketball, tutoring, volunteering, teaching Sunday school, babysitting - doing all things that resemble teaching. Besides teaching being a part of my identity, one reason I went into teaching as a career is becuase every day is different.
Every day I teach new things and learn new things. Every day the students have new responses, new things to tell me, new things to say. It's almost as if every day is a new challenge, an unknown. You can't plan for every minute of the day becuase every day the student's will react differently, depending on the content you're teaching is what takes teachers and students to new places, new inquiries, new learning. Because it takes us there, to that place, it ultimately shapes who we are as learners. As most teachers will agree, more often than not, the best moments of our days come out of those "teachable" moments - the unplanned moments that lead our students into something great. This is how our Lenten Project was born.
This year my students and I have been discussing the idea of change - how we can be agents of change, what we can do to change comething we don't like, how to become involved, how to make a difference. It's a concept I always teach throughout the year, but as a group, we decided it make a difference. It's a concept I always teach throughout the year, but as a group, we decided it needed more attention this year than I usually give it.
This year's group of students told me they had a reputation of sorts - they were "that class". They were the class that wasn't always on task; they were the class that sometime made "poor choices". They spoke about how they were potentially "the worst class in the school" and not matter what grade they were in, they always carried that impression with them, year after year. They consciously made decisions that they shouldn't. After this dicsussion and reflection, I asked them 2 simple questions: do you like that reputation as a group, and individually, do you like the person you are becoming? They answered no to both.
I teach grade 7/8 students, ages 12-14. This pivotal age is the start of the rest of their lives and whether they realise it or not, they are quite impressionable. Thus, in light of their revalations, we have spent a lot of time in our class considering if the students like the person they are becoming. We spend a lot of time reflecting on our choices, determining if we like the choices we are making that fundamentally shape who we are. Becuase of their past "reputation" and the fact that they didn't like it, we made the connection that if we don't like the choices we are making, we should and need to change them.
The power comes from within us to change the path we are going down. Further, this idea of changing our paths can turn us into leaders and leadership is about action. Therefore, we decided that if we possess the power to change ourselves, we MUST have the power to change the world. We must be able to see wrong in the world in the world and act. We must have the power to change something locally or globally. Or at least try. To help us see change in ourselves, we should help change something bigger than us.
We started looking at Mark and Craig Kielburger and their charity Free the Children. My students learned those boys were the same age as they are now. They couldn't believe what they started when they were only 12 years old. My students felt empowered and felt they needed to do something as well but couldn't figure out something just yet. A while later, we began studying migration, migration patterns and reading refugee stories, and this led us to learning about Emmanuel Jal and his story. My students were moved and in tears when they learned about his story. They felt an urge to help, to bring awareness to his message. They wanted to spread his word and help people realise what is happening in other parts of the world as we go along our merry way here in Canada, sometimes oblivious to such horrors.
I am so incredibly proud of the work my students have done because of this project, both academically and personally. They have grown in academics and within their learning, but more importantly, they have shown tremendous maturity in their personal growth. They have raised money for Gua; they have spread Jal's message through the creation of awareness packages and an incredible website. They challenged our entire school board to become aware, raise money, and be the change. They have been interviewed by local media, given presentations and have made a difference.
They have truly answered their call to serve and represent what it means to live the Catholic faith. They make me proud to call them my students; they give me hope for the future, knowing that they are becoming honest, hardworking, caring people. They are NOT the same students they were in September. They certainly do not have the reputation they said they had. They have changed their reputation and that is a powerful thing. They are the class that everyday remind me that I have the best job in the entire world as a teacher, no matter what the definition of that word is.
WE WANT PEACE. THANK YOU FOR READING.