Tag Archives: Learning


On the phone this morning, my mum pointed out that I haven’t blogged in a while. I haven’t written in my journal as often as usual, either. I started thinking about why that might be, and I feel that nothing I have to say is important compared to all of the hate the world is experiencing. My grade 10 students write up current events reports every two weeks, and some of them have already come in.

As the world is aware, it has not been a good two weeks.

My students are genuinely concerned, not just about Paris but also about Nigeria, Lebanon, ISIS, and the debate over refugees in the US. They’re concerned about potential evacuation drills, and they’re concerned about why there’s been so much violence in the world lately. One of them told me, “I wanted to find a current event that’s not about war. But I can’t.”

As I listen to student concerns, look over news articles in class, validate fears, and explain what/who/why ISIS is, I have also come to terms with my own unease. I realized this while journaling just a few minutes ago, and I thought it would be a good time for a post.

What frustrates me, and always has, is hate. Hate is not something I understand, not when it’s directed at a specific group of people (and I mean people, not monsters like ISIS, Boko Haram, or the Nazis). I understand fear, though I don’t always agree with it. However, I don’t understand the underlying racism, the hate, that accompanies fear. How is it that we don’t know better? Where did we, as educators, go wrong? Where did we, as people, as humans, go wrong? I’d expect that if asked, everyone in the people category (again, excluding monsters and their affiliates) would claim to want peace.

But we know that wanting peace isn’t enough. Peace doesn’t happen overnight. Peace needs time. It needs to be built. It needs to be strong so that it lasts.

As a student and a teacher of history, I know that peace is fragile. Peacebuilding itself is fragile. Peace is scary for some, I think, because it means letting go. It means admitting fallacy. It means apologizing when you’re in the wrong, when you’ve hurt others. It means compromise.

The way I see it, peace is the only way forward. And if we can’t build peace as a world right now for whatever reason (and I do understand the obstacles) maybe we can start by building peace within and among ourselves. We do that with children. We say things like, “Two wrongs don’t make a right!” (And we smile indulgently when cheeky kids respond with, “But two negatives make a positive!”) We tell children that “hands are not for hitting” and that it’s important to be nice to our friends. Sharing is caring, right? We teach children that everyone is unique and we teach the acceptance of difference. We teach about different cultures, different customs, and the importance of the Golden Rule. We teach friendship and respect and fairness and trustworthiness. We teach about taking risks and about trying again. We teach about perspectives and beliefs and opinions. We teach about hope for the future.

We teach children how to stop, listen, reflect, apologize, shake hands, and move forward. We teach children how to live.

As an educator, I am not in a position to negotiate world peace, and I do not envy those who are. But I do believe that it the responsibility of every person to create a better world. I became a teacher because I firmly believe that every person can play a role in doing so. In my classroom, we build peace. We communicate. We debate. We reflect. We listen and respond to one another as people, regardless of our differences. We highlight those differences to understand them, and we ask questions when we are uncertain. In my classroom, my students are safe. They are learning how to create a peaceful environment, and what it means to be a member of a community.

It is those lessons that I believe the world needs. Bombs aren’t going to stop us from hurting.

Peace, even in the smallest of ways, is our way forward.

The Hard Way

I have never been one to do anything the easy way.

When I was little, my mum used to say, “We can do this the happy, laughing way or the sad, crying way.” Based on the stories she tells of my temper tantrums (and yes, I am old enough in some of those stories to remember a few), I chose the sad, crying way more than a handful of times.

Rather than talk through problems when I was 5 or 6, I made plans more than once to run away from home. My dad, probably laughing, pulled my suitcase out of my closet for me once because I was too small to reach it. Needless to say, I didn’t get very far.

As I got older, I continued to learn lessons the hard way. Rather than ask for help from my ski instructors when I learned to ski, I was moved down a level into my sister’s group. Bri is two years younger than me so that was incredibly embarrassing. It also made me hate ski lessons and learn to become a pretty darn good skier anyway.

I learned the importance of saving periodically when typing not from following anyone’s advice, but because Word crashes and things disappear and then there’s a whole lot of yelling, mostly from me.

I learned not to hide when my parents came to pick me up from friends’ houses when my dad informed me that going to friends’ houses is privilege, not a right. Privileges can be taken away. And they were.

I had to reapply to the correct program at the university I ultimately attended because I clicked the wrong button on the drop-down menu when I was filling out my first application.

I brought home a non-Jewish guy as my first (and current) boyfriend and expected my parents to like him simply because I did. That battle took a long time for us to win!

I chose to cram four years of college into three by taking advantage of AP credits and taking way more than the recommended number of courses rather than spend a year abroad in Italy, which is one of the reasons I was adamant about teaching abroad.

I decided to learn to drive a car with a manual transmission by buying a car with a manual transmission. Several tense weeks later, I could drive my new car.

I learned that it’s better to get out of the car and check how close you are to the curb rather than simply testing it out. After a $600 paint job on my month-old car, I never made that mistake again. (Instead, 4 years later, I was more concerned with driving into the bushes on one side of my driveway than about driving into the bay window that stuck out of the other. Oops.)

I discovered that pie tins are not the same thing as glass pie plates when a cheese melai (don’t know what that is in English, sorry) that I was dying for simply refused to get ready.

I wanted an adventure, so I accepted a teaching job at a brand-new international school in Malaysia, expecting that everything would go as described and as promised from the beginning.

I neglected to check my calendar when booking a trip, so I had to cancel it and pay to rebook my flights when I realized the trip fell on Yom Kippur, a very important Jewish holiday.

I forgot to write down the location of my parking spot at KLIA, one of the largest airports in the world, and spent 40 minutes running around the parking garage with my friend trying to find the car.

But then again, there are some mistakes you really only need to make once. As a teacher, I see this every day; in my attempt to be a functioning person, I live it.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison