See all these teachers? Amazing people. Every one of them committed to values education. Every one of them seeking to implement more peace and values education, embedding it into the academic curriculum.
And yes, that’s me in the centre – having just run a livley teacher-training workshop, Global Citizenship – it starts with us! for Principals and teachers in Mumbai.
Yet, now I sit with my head in my hands. Deflated. A physical and emotional response to the suggestion that teachers in America be armed with guns.
Thankfully, as I scan social media, I discover two American teachers, Brittany Wheaton and Olivia Bertels, - and I take time to observe these are American teachers - have created the #ArmMeWith movement. Essentially, they are saying, Arm Me With the equipment, resources and stability to teach, NOT GUNS! And teachers all across America are joining in.
Here is what I have read thus far:
Arm me with smaller classes
Arm me with books, not guns
Arm me with mental health resources
Arm me with anti-bullying programs
Arm me with suicide awareness
Arm me with libraries with books (What? They don’t have a library in their school?)
This one speaks volumes: I don’t need a gun; I need a raise.
Arm me with school supplies. I should not be single-handedly keeping Target in business
And Arm me with politicians who value my students over guns
It is difficult to point the finger overseas and let it rest there. Only two weeks ago, I visited a vital organisation here in Melbourne which works with youth at risk. I listened as their CEO spoke of how they are struggling to continue their programs with funding cuts. I returned home to turn on the news. The headline - 'Australia unveils plan to become one of world’s top 10 arms exporters' - also left me with my head in my hands. I will not have guns used in unearthly conflict with ‘Made in Australia’ stamped upon the barrel and by extrapolation, upon my own sweating brow.
If you think we are already ‘doing enough of this stuff’ in schools – you know, the ‘peacey stuff’, then ask yourself why a man who thinks it is ok for teachers to carry concealed weapons got into power. Stop. Think. He didn’t vote himself in.
In fact, we need more of the ‘peacey-stuff.’ The stuff that helps kids unravel hate and discrimination. In particular, an education that unravels fear.
Recently, I was chatting with a primary school student. It was just a light-hearted, friendly chat. Out of nowhere came this question from the child, ‘Did you know you can only go to America for one day.’ I smiled inwardly at the child’s cute lack of knowledge about global travel. I asked casually, yet curiously, ‘Oh, why is that?’ ‘Well,’ replied the 9 year old, ‘It isn’t safe to go there.’
The time to do more is well overdue.
For me, my Arm Me With wish?
#ArmMeWith the funds to continue teaching non-violence, in all its forms. To allow peace and values education to gain wider reach and depth. For the work to flourish, just as our kids should be flourishing.
Look back to the photo above. Trust in the solidarity of educators who are change-makers and peace-builders.
Speaker / Author / Educator Margaret Hepworth is an expert in teenage motivations & behaviours; a thought leader in peace education; the founder of The Gandhi Experiment; an English and Humanities teacher of 30 years; author of The Gandhi Experiment – teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens; recipient of the 2016 Sir John Monash Award for Inspirational Women's Leadership; creator of Collaborative Debating ©. www.thegandhiexperiment.com
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Please note: The views expressed are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily of anyone pictured or mentioned.