Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Phone Call From Cameroon

"Are you there?"
"Yes, it's us! Hi Lauren. I'm going to put you on speaker phone."
"Okay, my whole class can you hear you now. How is Cameroon?"

A reverent silence descended on the room. And then, for about ten minutes, our very own Peace Core Volunteer partner spoke to us. My students raised their hands and asked many urgent questions: What animals do you see? What's the worst disease there? Are you getting homesick? Did you get our letters?

Her answers were so clear and patient and loving.

I ended the call by telling her the truth: we are so proud that she is representing our country in this capacity.

I've been thinking a lot lately about moral education and about teaching children ethics. I never thought such subjects would be all that important to me, as a teacher, but I'm coming to believe that digging for answers to the question, "How should I live my life?" is at the heart of much of my work with children. I come at this question from lots of angles, and hardly ever head-on. For example, we have a class motto that we repeat often: WORK HARD! BE NICE! (ROCK ON! was added by the kids this year.) My classroom management system is entirely based on making thoughtful choices. I have a growing repertoire of "little lectures" that are useful ways to illustrate important moral lessons about such topics as the harmful effects of gossip and the strength it requires to walk away from a fight.

Partnering with Lauren this year, however, has been my very favorite way to quietly teach my students to become more thoughtful young people. In September, before she left, Lauren visited our class. We all remember this young, nervous woman who left the shelter of her home less than two days after she visited us. And now her whole life is completely devoted to caring for other people. Hearing from her often and writing her letters has led us to think about people in another part of the world. It's helped us imagine our own futures as people who will work hard to help others. I want my students to continue becoming people who are kind and moral. I love having a partnership that so effortlessly helps all of us stretch in that direction.

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