03 September 2011

Here's to a Courageous and Compassionate New School Year

In my part of the world, students and teachers are heading back to school. Here's my wish for the new school year:

May all the educators — at all levels, everywhere — find the courage and compassion they need in order to teach what their students most need to learn, whether that is how to connect with the rest of Nature (for the young ones), how life works on this planet (ecological principles), what the state of their planet (and hence, their future) is, or how to move into the world of work and adulthood and citizenship as practitioners of sustainable (or better yet, survivable) development principles.

But we teachers also have to be brave enough to say NO! to irrelevant parts of the curriculum or syllabus and YES! to teaching what our students need for creating the best possible future for themselves: food growing skills, water collecting skills, energy generating skills. No matter what else you teach, you can teach with the Earth and the future and the children of all species in mind.

As I was writing an article for the 2009 issue of the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (Transformative Environmental Education: Stepping Outside the Curriculum Box - pdf), I originally penned "Teachers are a timorous lot," timorous being the gentlest word I found amongst the 44 synonyms* for "wussy" I uncovered. (I was afraid "wussy" would be too offensive, thereby proving my own point.)

Teachers do not go into teaching to become heroes. We do not suffer from Fireman Syndrome. But heroes we must become! The lives of all our students are at risk, and we can and should and must be doing something about it. (I do a professional development workshop or webinar for teachers entitled Greening Education with Courage and Compassion.)

We in the education field consider our time very precious, but how precious is it compared to the lives, the future, of our students? (Not to mention the lives of tens of thousands of children lost to the famine in East Africa.) If we don't understand the climate change emergency, the crisis of biodiversity loss, the importance of protecting forests, the urgency of moving to a zero-carbon economy, then we must take the time to learn!

To my colleagues, a reminder that we teach best what we most need to learn. Please, consider how you can help safeguard the future for the children of all species through your teaching, and summon your courage and compassion to help you do the right thing. Visit GreenHeart Education for ideas and enCOURAGEment.

Have a wonderful new year at school ... but keep in mind and hold in your hearts all the kids who don't have (or won't have) enough to eat or drink due to droughts and floods and storms and heatwaves, let alone a school to go to.

p.s. Despite job action in my jurisdiction, I am organizing a Soup for Somalia school garden harvest luncheon for my school. Please try to find some way to help the youngsters in your school or community connect to and help out
their peers in the Horn of Africa.

* Actually, it was only 43 synonyms; turns out I had "namby pamby" twice! Here's the rest of the list of synonyms for "wussy," in case you're interested:

  1. timorous
  2. faint-hearted
  3. fearful
  4. doormat
  5. weakling
  6. insipid
  7. softie
  8. crybaby
  9. irresolute
  10. wishy washy
  11. sissy
  12. wimp
  13. timid
  14. afraid
  15. unassertive
  16. feeble
  17. weak
  18. ineffectual
  19. cowardly
  20. weak-willed
  21. jejune (I'm pushing it with this one)
  22. suck
  23. banal
  24. prosaic
  25. tame
  26. anemic
  27. vapid
  28. lacking zest
  29. flavourless
  30. dull
  31. boring
  32. bland
  33. diffident
  34. doubtful
  35. insecure
  36. reticent
  37. trepid
  38. nervous
  39. tense
  40. apprehensive
  41. jittery
  42. collywobbly

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?