Thursday, April 30, 2020
A Message from Yasmeen Qadri, Professor, Education
“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher” — Japanese proverb
The pandemic we are all currently surrounded by has made our lives miserable, stressed out and fearful. It is said that character is not made in crisis but demonstrated in crisis. I am blessed to have students who inspire me and, through our virtual connections, I realized that my students were trying to put into practice what they learned in their teacher education classes this semester.
Students in my classes were learning about the characteristics of effective teachers beyond their own textbooks and course outlines. Topics such as passion, dedication, patience, empathy, peace and self-confidence were modeled, and the future teachers were supported in practicing them in their daily lives.
Our classroom was a learning community where each cared about the other. In addition, students were engaged in interfaith, cross-cultural conversations on topics such as economic and racial injustice, multilingual education, war and refugees, special education, gender issues and immigration. Most important of all, they believed that teachers touch the future and are empowered to help build better societies. Joseph Addison rightly said, “What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul.”
With all the above in mind, I thought I would share a few important life lessons that my students learned and used to thrive in their future teaching careers.
Lesson 1: Teaching is a Valuable Profession.
During the pandemic, students were able to reflect on choosing teaching as a career. Through their service learning hours, they were able to aid those in need, whether it was as mentors or as teacher assistants. They always stepped up to help their classmates and provide support to those in need. “Teaching is service to humanity and we cannot be successful teachers if we miss opportunities to make a difference,” said one student.
“I wish I can reach out to those who have no parental support or are struggling to meet the basics,” sighed another student.
With children at home, I hope teachers are more valued and respected by parents and society at large. Students were discouraged to become teachers by family due to lack of respect and low wages. The COVID-19 shutdown of schools is giving an opportunity for parents to realize how challenging and tiresome it is to teach their own children, hopefully resulting in more appreciation and recognition of teachers. Students had to reflect on Cicero’s quote “What noble employment is more valuable to the state than that of the man who instructs the rising generation?” Not just rising, we must help the sinking ones too.
Lesson 2: Global Citizenship in Teacher Education
Global citizenship education is not a new idea for my students. Every year during Global Peace Week on campus my students attend the events and write reflections on them. By being engaged in Global Peace Week students organize their own 3 Cs Series Seminars: Courageous Conversations on Chai. While having Indian tea and Greek baklava, students are encouraged to open conversations on controversial topics while respecting differences.
Although there are College efforts on inclusion, there are still some who feel marginalized. We must make strides to progress from the “tolerated” level to the higher “valued” level of inclusion. Unfortunately, some (students/faculty/administration) continue to cling on the “us” versus “them” mentality and are not able to see beyond local or value globalization.
We must all strive to develop global citizens with a global mindset, with a deeper concern for global interdependence and focus on human value. COVID-19 helped us understand that globalization is not a foreign concept anymore; it has entered our lives and our homes. Fortunately, this virus has awakened the spirit of global citizenship that we hope will continue once the pandemic ends.
Lesson 3: Resilience and Optimism are Essential Skills for Teacher Educators
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress … As much as resilience involves ‘bouncing back’ from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”
My philosophy of teaching is to make sure my students are connected to collegewide initiatives and benefit from all the valuable programs that Student Development, the Peace and Justice Institute, International Education and others have to offer our students. I make stress management, time management and conflict management topics of intentional teaching.
The success of our future teachers, I believe, will be in how well they will deal with the challenges of real-life and human differences.
As a class, I engage students in these very topics that may not be covered in their textbooks or course outlines. In this way, they learn to develop behaviors, thoughts and actions that can make them resilient teachers. Increasing resilience in our students requires time and intentional teaching.
I believe that focusing on the four components: learning community, wellness, positive thinking and purpose can help develop stronger teachers and a better school. What better time than during the current crisis to teach about resilience in teacher education? Teaching is the greatest act of optimism. Hats off to all teachers!