As September looms on the horizon, teachers are beginning to think about the first day of school, the activities and rules they will be establishing in their classroom and the approaches to discipline they will take. In addition to establishing routine and learning names, teachers should give some thought to knowing their audience. Students come from all different backgrounds, religions and social classes. Exposing students to news events, books, articles, movies etc. that do not only represent a particular segment of society is paramount. The most important item in my classroom, for instance, is a map of the world.
It is essential for students in North America to realize that they are not the centre of the universe and that the world is a bigger place. All perceptions they have regarding what life is are just that: perceptions based on their experiences. What if I told them that where I come from, children walk barefoot in the streets? If they lived in Malawi, children would be working on tobacco farms where they would be exposed to so many carcinogens that their lungs deteriorate only after a few years. More than 75 000 children work on such farms in Malawi. (Monday August 24th,2009 Globe and Mail ) The Canadian government has decreased most of its aid to Africa and is now concentrating on South America. The argument is that problems of corruption and dependence on foreign aid have weakened economies in Africa to the point they cannot self-sustain. Africa has already received billions of dollars in aid with deplorable long-term results for its prosperity. Does aid really inhibit sustenance? How can aid be used more effectively to guarantee a country’s prosperity?
My most vivid memory of my time in Nairobi was on my birthday. My aunt took me to a slum area in Nairobi. We picked up bread and milk. Our driver went about to gather the people and they all lined up. My aunt instructed me to hand out a portion of bread and a bottle of milk to each person. They were mostly women and children in the line-up. For that day they would be full. But what would happen the next day? And the day after that? Was I doing a disservice to these people? Or was I just keeping them from going hungry for one more day?
Why not start the year up with a debate or discussion relating to the “real world” in one of your classrooms?