It’s strong, it’s new, it’s brave. It’s kids pursuing peace
December 9 was the peace heroes “launch day” for the Yezidi and Muslim children living in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan. Lisa (whose story was featured in my last blog post), decided to turn the launch into a full-fledged celebration, a day to mark the “birth” of a new culture of peace within the walls of the refugee camps that these kids are living in. In so many ways, such a celebration of peace is incredibly subversive because of how it counters the terrible darkness these children are emerging from. It amazes me how something as simple as the Peace Heroes Curriculum can become a catalyst for the reframing of an entire culture and provide a platform for healing. It is, in the end, just a tool – but in the hands of a visionary, like Lisa, it can become a life-changing experience.
I am deeply indebted to Lisa for allowing me to repost her reflections from this momentous occasion, as well as a variety of pictures she (and her team) took, all of which you can find below. Please do visit Springs of Hope Foundation for even more pictures of and reflections on this special day. Continue reading “Counter Culture”
We cannot undo our brokenness, but we can, perhaps, remake it into something beautiful
In Japan there is an ancient art form called kintsugi in which broken objects, rather than being thrown out, are reconstructed with liquid gold – the precious metal holding the broken pieces together like glue. Kintsugi is based on the belief that “fractures don’t represent the end of the object’s life, but an essential moment in its history” (“Kintsugi: the Art of Embracing Damage”). The purpose of kintsugi is to reveal how mended objects can be more beautiful than their original, pristine forms. Kintsugi bears witness to an often-neglected truth: that brokenness can be a powerful medium for transformation. It’s simply a question of how the pieces are put back together. Continue reading “Broken”
What happened during the year in this regard is significant: the students came to understand that anyone can be a peace hero, even (and especially) those within their immediate sphere of influence. They learned about famous people “out there,” but in the process they grasped the most important message embedded in these people’s stories – that “peace begins with me”
When we started the pilot program a year ago, we asked some of the schools to perform pre- and post-assessments on students so we could document the way in which their perceptions about peace and peace heroes changed throughout the year. The questions we suggested were simple ones, like what is peace and how does the word peace make you feel; is peace weak or strong; who is a hero, and so forth. Once the pre-assessments were completed, I set them aside until the end of the school year, when we would have the opportunity to compare them to the post-assessments, which would consist of the exact same questions as those given at the beginning of the year.
Needless to say, I was curious to see what this exercise might reveal, but it wasn’t until the end of the school year that I finally had the opportunity to make the comparison. Continue reading “One Year On”
“South Africa is such a special country that still has a lot of pain and hurt to work through. Many of my students spoke about things that they had not discussed openly with their peers before. It was a beautiful process, watching them respect the opinions that differed from theirs”
Dear Elie: This curriculum is important because in our society, today, people are so broken and so hurt, that they forget how to forgive and they forget about peace. This curriculum teaches us how to find the broken links and repair them . . . I found my hurt – and conquered it!
– 7th grade student, South Africa
One of the most encouraging aspects of this pilot year has been receiving feedback from teachers and students about the Curriculum. The school in South Africa has just completed its first term using Peace Heroes, and the report I received from Chay, the 7th grade teacher, was so heartening, I asked her if I could share it – word for word – on my blog. At this particular school, Chay had planned to teach four heroes during the first term, beginning with Desmond Tutu – one of South Africa’s most prominent and well-known peace heroes. However, learning about their own history through the lens of peace was such a monumental experience, that the two 7th grade classes never got beyond their first hero. Instead, they took an entire semester to delve more deeply into Tutu’s life, allowing it to impact their own lives in unforeseen ways. Here is Chay’s summary of the experience: Continue reading “A Word From South Africa”
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”
“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”
“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”