Preparing Our Children to be Leaders in the Best Sense of the Word

At this year’s annual gala, Tanenbaum recognized Jordana Jacobs, a teacher at The Hudson School in Hoboken, NJ with the Adam Solomon Award, which was created in recognition of Mr. Solomon’s commitment to excellence and to Tanenbaum before his untimely death.

Jordana has used several of Tanenbaum’s resources in her classroom, including the Park51 curriculum and the Seven Principles for Inclusive Education. Her speech at the gala highlights the critical role educators play in teaching their students to appreciate diversity and replace hatred and prejudice with understanding and respect.

Jordana's speech is reprinted below.  While the written version doesn't include the full passion with which Jordana delivered it, it still rings true in concert with Tanenbaum's work.

Tanenbaum Adam Solomon Award
 
Presented to Jordana Jacobs
 
Thank you. It is a tremendous honor to be award by people who do such necessary and beautiful work.
 
Teachers do more than build knowledge and skills. We foster dispositions. And personally… I need at least seven hours of sleep to model a good disposition.
 
When I was looking for resources for my class on the web and found Tanenbaum, I met a likeminded friend. A friend bearing gifts, such as the Seven Principles for Inclusive Education. These principles are a guide for encouraging students to honor one another and to hold diversity sacred. If the kids can internalize that and master the whole subject/verb consistency thing—we’re all set.
 
Unfortunately, the culture of respect we wish to establish in the classroom is not always modeled in our world. I rarely have to search far for a teachable moment—the poor treatment of marginalized people remains ubiquitous. In 2010, alarmed by intolerance surrounding a controversy over an Islamic Cultural Center that was slated for Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from Ground Zero, I developed a unit about it for my seventh grade ethics class. Amid the polemic reporting and angry noise, I found Tanenbaum’s resources on the web, a cool place in the heat. The site gave me more than a fact sheet—it had a page devoted to conflict resolution. Just as splendidly, the emphasis was on how all the parties involved—pro and con– felt about the resolution process as well as the outcome. There is more to winning than winning.
 
While reading allegories from multiple faiths in my ninth grade English class, one girl confessed that she feared that she was cheating on her religion. She mistook her religion for a team. A team’s goal is to win. What, I asked, is a religion’s goal? Was avoiding learning about others truly the key to religious fidelity?
 
Educators can push back against the postures of antagonism our children see and, often, mimic. We can work towards replacing this with curiosity and understanding, even love.
 
How?  We can start with bringing different points of view into our classrooms—we can choose literature and develop projects using the lens of inclusive education. In doing so, we are not just preparing our children to compete in the 21st Century marketplace – we are preparing them to stand as the guardians of marginalized peoples and to model dispositions of understanding and curiosity. We can prepare our children to be leaders in the best sense of the word.