California. Missouri. Pennsylvania. Illinois. New York. All great states and represented in our most recent intensive educator training. For five days during their summer vacation, 10 educators came to challenge themselves on how to incorporate values of respect for all diversity, including religious diversity, in the academic lessons they use with their students. I was struck by several things in working with these dedicated professionals.
First, the work of educating young people at any age level is a daunting one. Educators often have to negotiate the demands of their administration, the desires of the parents of the students they instruct and the need for young people to be actively engaged ALL THE TIME! The educators we worked with all have a fundamental commitment to navigate through the waters known as the educational system to leave the young people they work with able to engage the world on its own terms. It was moving to be with them as they looked at new possibilities for accomplishing all of these goals.
Second, educators often feel alone, a lone voice in a sea of mediocrity, calling for more from the administration, the parents and always their students. The educators we worked with moved beyond their own limitations so that they could provide a heightened level of service to the young people they work with. They dealt seriously with topics like social identity, their own and those of their students; the history of multicultural education; cultural pluralism; cultural democracy; melting pot vs. salad bowl; citizenship – both global and local. Ultimately the professionals we worked with dealt with how could they use all this information to provide a broader context for students to understand and be successful in the world that they would be working in, living in, and raising their children in at some point in the future. That future that seems to come faster day by day.
Finally, educators are honorable people. I know this and was fortunate at one point in my life to be a person who taught high school students in New York City. And I was reminded of the dedication and the commitment of people who decide that their life is going to be dedicated to the development of others. And if we are going to develop young people for the world that they will live in, not the world we find ourselves in now, how do I expand what I know and how I teach to ensure that those young people are prepared to win. There are 10 people who I know will be attending to that. And that makes me hopeful for the future of education and the world.