Communities of Inclusivity

To be included –to belong–to be part of–to share life with– these are the experiences that will leave their indelible mark on the students. So it is no small thing to stop and ask ourselves: What kind of communities are we building in our schools?

The other day I tried to remember what I learned in 3rd grade, and I couldn’t think of a single thing. What I did remember, however, was how my friends and I formed a little “pack” (we called it) and did everything together – in school and out – so that I never felt friendless or alone; I remembered how my teacher would give each of us a big bear hug each morning, squeezing the living daylights out of us in an embrace we wouldn’t have exchanged for anything in the world; and I remembered how another teacher cried when the class was so out of control, we missed the siren that commemorated victims of the Holocaust (and how, for the first time, I felt the full impact of what it means to bear communal responsibility for less-than-ideal behavior). If I were to take time to think through 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, I suspect the pattern would be the same: I would remember random events involving friends, students, and teachers; I would remember that I generally enjoyed the whole experience; but I wouldn’t remember anything at all about what I learned in Math, Language Arts, or PE.

I think that, as kids, we are much more shaped by the social environment at our school than by any information we learn in class. Continue reading “Communities of Inclusivity”

When Lives Collide

I couldn’t help thinking, as she held me tight, that what goes around comes around, often in the most beautiful and unexpected ways

A week ago, Liberian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee arrived in Israel for a whirlwind two-day visit. She was invited to attend the grand finale of an event organized by Women Wage Peace, which had begun on October 4 with a group of Israeli and Palestinian women who were slowly marching from the north of the country down to Jerusalem, where they planned to hand the Prime Minister a letter demanding an end to the conflict. Their inspiration was the women’s peace movement in Liberia that had brought down that country’s dictator in 2003.  It was, therefore, in her capacity as a woman, a peace activist, and a Nobel laureate that Leymah was invited to attend this event and give the keynote addresses in a variety of settings on the final days of the march. Continue reading “When Lives Collide”

Guest Post: On Being Loved and Wanted

“Of all the inspiring, motivating individuals we learn from, I am delighted that the simplest notion of sharing the belovedness of another human being is what consistently made a sustaining impact”

Once again, it is my great privilege to hand this post over to one of the Curriculum’s most seasoned teachers. For three years in a row, Elise taught Peace Heroes to her third grade classes at the Jerusalem School in Beit Hanina. What follows are some of her reflections on this experience.

“Miss Elise, I am sick,” Aseel raised her hand to share.

“Oh really?” I responded.

“Yes,” she continued in that adorably confident way of hers. “My mom wanted me to stay home this morning but I told her I couldn’t. It’s Wednesday. We have history! And I can’t miss that.”

I just smiled, happy my little Aseel loved history so much and secretly hoping her sickness wasn’t contagious!

Although Aseel’s extreme enthusiasm for our peace history class made me smile, it didn’t surprise me. Continue reading “Guest Post: On Being Loved and Wanted”

Why This, Why Now?

How we define peace makes a difference in how we live our lives. And in the current state of global affairs, that’s not a point to be taken lightly

I’ve been asked: Why is the Peace Heroes Curriculum urgently needed right now, at this point in time? It’s a fair question. And here is my (shorthand) answer.

There is no denying that the contemporary political climate around the world is one of fear – a climate that lends itself to the many radical voices that are quickly becoming mainstream. This fear is manifested in a growing suspicion of anyone who does not belong to the factions we associate ourselves with, causing people to move more deeply into their own groups and alienating anyone who is different, or “other,” than them. In fact, the fear of the “other” is turning into something of a crisis on a global scale, Continue reading “Why This, Why Now?”

Guest Post: Joccoa and Mel on a Year With the Peace Heroes

“It soon becomes clear that no one particular type of person or characteristic is needed to be a hero for peace – any one of us can make a difference in the world”

It is my great privilege to hand this post to Mel and Joccoa, mother and daughter who have been using the Peace Heroes Curriculum in their homeschooling program for over a year now (feel free to read this blog post for more about their very creative ideas). It begins with Joccoa’s lovely poem, featured artistically in her picture above, followed by some of her thoughts, and ends with some reflections from Mel.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Joccoa and Mel on a Year With the Peace Heroes”

Religious Freedom

Over and over again I found that many of the peace heroes were using the same religious language, regardless of their faith tradition. The words “image of God” or “children of God” were repeated in every religious conviction, as was the idea that we are all (as a result) brothers and sisters, which is why we bear so much responsibility toward one another

I’ve been cautioned, on a number of occasions, about the “religious tone” implicit in some of the Curriculum’s material. This, I’ve been told, will be an obstacle for some schools; perhaps I ought to reconsider and take out the sections that mention a peace hero’s religious convictions. While I understand the concern, my engagement with the religious convictions of some heroes is actually intentional. And here’s why. Continue reading “Religious Freedom”

Flagging History

To re-imagine a country’s flag is an incredibly poignant exercise – it brings the story behind the history to life in a visual and visceral way

To say that this is the first year the Curriculum is being piloted outside of Jerusalem School is not exactly true. In actual fact, the Curriculum began its venture into the wide world a little over a year ago, when Mel and Joccoa decided to add it to their homeschooling program, as an experiment. Mel is a trained teacher from Australia who now lives in Kenya; Joccoa is Mel’s daughter and has just begun her adventures in sixth grade. Peace Heroes was only supposed to be a short-lived addition to Joccoa’s homeschool program in fifth grade, but Mel soon realized that she would have to find a way to teach it for the duration of the year when Joccoa decided it was one of her favorite subjects. By the time Joccoa finishes sixth grade, she will have covered an extensive number of heroes!

What makes Mel and Joccoa’s experience with the Curriculum so unique is the incredibly creative way they have chosen to engage with it, Continue reading “Flagging History”

Points of Light

The Peace Heroes Curriculum does not try to cover up the ugly realities of history. Rather, it aims to find points of light in those dark places – moments of redemption that transform history into something infused with hope

When asked – What is Peace? – one of the students in our pilot program answered: “A dark night with stars.”

One of the goals of the Peace Heroes Curriculum is to teach history through the lens of peace, not war. Recently someone asked me if that means we skip over the darker parts of history. And the answer is, quite simply, no. The students still learn about World War II; they learn about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the many faces of apartheid; they are exposed to the horrors of the North American slave trade or the devastating effects of the Vietnam War.

In fact, there are darker facets of history in this Curriculum that the students would probably not be exposed to otherwise – at least not in the academic setting: Continue reading “Points of Light”

Tangible Peace

I love that the Curriculum, from the outset of the pilot program, is so diverse in its use. It is an unintentional fleshing out of one of the Curriculum’s core values: Unity in diversity

The pilot is starting to take off! And it’s so exciting to see. One aspect I hadn’t thought about or expected was how each of the schools (and even each of the teachers) would find their own unique and creative way to implement the Curriculum. Partly that’s because I’m handing them an open-ended Curriculum: We haven’t put the content into lesson plans and we haven’t set down a specific way of teaching the material. But this format has actually allowed teachers a certain freedom – the freedom to interact with and implement the Curriculum in ways that are much more in line with their personalities, their passions and convictions, and their artistic and academic talents. I love this – I love that the Curriculum, from the outset of the pilot program, is so diverse in its use. It is an unintentional fleshing out of one of the Curriculum’s core values: Unity in diversity. We all have the same content, but we are finding our own unique ways to pass it on to our students . . .

Continue reading “Tangible Peace”

Welcome to Our New Blog!

Welcome to our Peace Heroes Curriculum blog! For the time being, I’ve created a very simple site, which aims to do two things:

1) Keep teachers participating in our 2016-2017 pilot program informed about what is happening in the other schools (providing them with a platform for interactive discussion and dialogue)
2) Give anyone who is interested a glimpse into how the program is taking shape in its various contexts

After three years of teaching the Curriculum at the Jerusalem School, we are excited to be expanding our reach to several other schools, all of which have agreed to participate in this pilot year. The Curriculum has been (or is about to be) launched in schools in Israel and Palestine, Kenya and (potentially) South Africa at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. We have an exciting year ahead of us, which I hope to faithfully document through this simple blog.

For more information about the Curriculum, please visit our Overview page.