Earlier this term I took part in this year’s Beach to Beach walk. For those who don’t know, this is an amazing event organized by Mrs Prior-Morrissey in which our year 12’s walk from Coolangatta to Southport in order to raise money for World Vision. This year 90 of us set off - that means 80 of our students got up early on a Saturday and volunteered to give up work-time, shopping time, and even sports time in order to spend the day walking 30km on what was sometimes very soft sand.
I was struck by two things on this walk. Firstly, this fabulous event stood in total defiance of the stereotype of teenagers we are usually fed - 80 young adults voluntarily raising money for development certainly does not sit well with, say, the boozed-up Bacchanalian image the media loves to portray every year at Schoolies. And that made me very happy, because I’ve worked with teenagers for over 25 years, and I’ve met very few who live up to that image -and even those who do live up to the image tend to do so either because no-one has ever shown them how valuable they are, or because they are just imitating what more ‘mature’ adults are doing - witness recent football players’ behaviour, for example.
Secondly I was struck by the fact that such voluntary compassion and action is not unusual for Emmanuel; after all, only a few days before the walk, the school spontaneously put together a disaster relief week raising over $5000 for the victims of the cyclone in Vanuatu, the floods in the Hunter Valley and the Earthquakes in Nepal—unter Valley and the earthquakes in Nepal.
This voluntary, practical compassion is a central part of the education we offer.
We recently held a Teacher’s Forum on the importance of Global Education here at Emmanuel. We had representatives from schools across South East Queensland, as well as from schools in Victoria and Western Australia. The aim of the forum was to explore three things, the first of which was how important is Global Education - that is education about Global Issues and intercultural competency, through which students can learn about this active compassion. The second and third aims were to see how Global Education can be integrated into school life; and how it can be used to enhance learning without stealing time from the traditional curriculum.
It was a huge success (and I should take this opportunity to publically thank our partners, Mission Educate, and our key-note speaker, Dr Mark Turner from the University of WA). What was interesting from a newsletter-perspective was the fact that as the day wore on, all of us became increasingly aware of just how important the non-curricular aspects of Global Education are - aspects like Disaster Relief Weeks and Beach to Beach. It was amazing to see staff from across Australia teaming up to develop some exceptional, Australian curriculum-integrated, Global Education resources through which our students can learn about issues and responsibility.
By providing activities like Beach to Beach, we give our students the chance to not only learn about responsibility, compassion and problem solving, but to be responsible, to be compassionate, and to be part of the solution. And the impact of that could be highly significant. Alford Ncube, the Principal of King of Kings School in Mozambique, who opened our Forum with a video welcome, said in his message: “When we think about developing a nation, we have to think of education.” If we see education in that kind of context - in the context of developing our nation, and not just in the context of giving kids good NAPLAN scores - then the learning that happens when our students organise a Crisis Relief Week, or walk from Cooly to Southport, is enormous.
As John Dewey, the philosopher and educationalist said: “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and if the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”