by Laurence Myers
Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator
International School of Kuala Lumpur
As one who is involved in creating global citizens and fostering sustainable practices, from the age of 3 to 18 (and beyond) life can have it's ups and downs. Even the smallest things might feel more like pulling teeth. Every little change can take years.
We recently found out that our payslips will be sent to us electronically. After years of asking if it was possible, and being told that the "system" wasn't able to do that, the word came out just the other day. It was a moment of splendid pride, albeit bitty. It represented visits, over a three year period, to the business and HR offices, to people who otherwise are quite lovely but who are more limited than I in their belief that change is possible. I'm still not convinced that the "system" that wouldn't budge wasn't the mental one, but change did take place and smiles as well as congratulations were shared.
Which got me to thinking... why should congratulations be necessary for one simple change in the manner by which something is communicated? Of course it isn't so much the adjustment as the symbolic "moment" of the shifting of the mind to a more sustainable (and, in this case, probably easier) method of communicating. It represents many such visits to the very same office where "no" was the answer or, often, the conversation was deflected onto another department or group who were doing this, or doing that. How often have I walked into the art department, for example, to talk Earth-friendly paint only to be asked to focus, instead, on bus exhausts, and then to have bussing tell me to talk to admissions about their numerous brochures.
The truth is that we are all to blame. And none of us are to blame. We are going though a profound change of a professional and personal nature. As adults we are learning to unlearn. We are searching to know the unknowns, and this takes energy, and time and commitment, and action.
But on an increasingly steady basis, I can find solace - lots of it - in the way things are going. Truth be told that the aforementioned change in pay slips was not of my prompting (this time). That in and of itself speaks volumes of the conversations I no longer have to be part of in order to promote changes. There is a liberating feeling in that. Like the world is getting it. And not only that. That we each have a role to play and don't need the "green guy" to do it.
And then there are the kids. Those wonderful, youthful voices of inspiration and hope (perhaps a bit less so when they hit puberty). I'm walking down the hall and see kids spontaneously performing songs for Earth Week. I see grade 1 students actively engaging their peers and teachers in requesting trees to shade a playground they feel to be too hot. I see students recognizing their role in shaping a new future. The beauty of it, though, is that for them this doesn't reprsent an 'unlearning'. It merely represents learning.
How powerful a moment to recognize that we, as educators of sustainability and service learning, can give our students the support they need to learn by changing the world through learning. Pretty cool really. It makes the moments of teeth pulling somewhat irrelevant. Or, more likely, it makes them worth it.
This blog is currently being updated by Laurence Myers, K-12 Service Learning Coordinator at the American School of Dubai. We are hoping the blog becomes a compilation of posts from a variety of people in the region and around the world. Want to add something? Send it along!