Can We Really “Teach Peace”?

In light of recent violence in the world,  I have been pondering the role of educators in this shifting paradigm.  As members of an international organization, TESOL professionals can be found in every part of the globe, working with all types of people across differences in age, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, race, and religion. As a group, we are continually touched by events outside of our classrooms, and this requires us to be aware of economic, political, and social affairs that impact us as well as our students.

However, being aware of differences and addressing them with our students (or teaching future teachers how to address them) are two different things.  Topics such as immigration, inequality, or politics might make teachers feel uncomfortable or vulnerable, as they can produce volatile conversations (See Amobi, 2007). However, if these topics are rarely or never addressed, people may lack the time to process their own perspectives or begin to understand others’ viewpoints and personal histories.

Thus, we need to ask ourselves as teachers and teacher educators, what role do these topics have in our instruction? How do we include them in an effective way?  If you’re teaching English as a foreign language,  you might incorporate topics with multiple perspectives to encourage authentic conversation and examine current affairs in your region, as well as those in Anglophone countries.  If you’re teaching English as a second language, many of your students might be immigrants, refugees, or children of immigrants who are living or have lived these experiences themselves.  As such, talking about these issues and sharing information may help them feel more empowered about their circumstances.  Great care should be taken, though, to tread lightly with issues that learners are perhaps not willing to address in a public setting, or that might make them feel singled out in a mixed group.

I am hopeful that peace can be taught, and I find that even the smallest endeavors to understand each other can result in some form of change.  I think that language classrooms are excellent settings to communicate about the human condition, at any age, and so I offer some current resources for pedagogical support in addressing differences and promoting diversity.  While these are mostly US-based, feel free to add any others that you have used in the comments section.

Beyond Bias: Countering Stereotypes in School
A year-long online series of articles, interactive activities, commentary, and Q & A sessions examining efforts to recognize and overcome discrimination in schools.

Courageous Conversations about Race:  A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools
A guide to engaging in honest dialogue about the social construct of race, and the resulting inequality in schools.

Smart Girls
Dedicated to cultivating intelligence and imagination among today’s youth, with particular emphasis toward empowering young women.  This site focuses on the lesser-known contributions of women throughout history, as well as important contributions women make to current society (also available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

Teaching Tolerance
A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center designed to “reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences.”  This site includes blogs, classroom resources, professional development sets, film kits, and webinars to support educators in teaching tolerance toward others (also available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

Zinn Education Project
Created in the same vein as Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, this site shares materials and pedagogy that “emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history.” Emphasis  is placed upon the notion that history is “made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter” (also available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).


Reference

Amobi, F. A. (2007). The message or the messenger: Reflection on the volatility of evoking novice teachers’ courageous conversations on race. Multicultural Education14(3), 2–7.

from TESOL Blog http://blog.tesol.org/can-we-really-teach-peace/

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