I am always trying to get my students to read the newspaper, to find out what's going on in the world and to get involved with issues of the day that have an affect on them. It's one way to motivate them to become engaged in their classes and to realize how fortunate they are to be getting an education. "Don't waste this opportunity," is one of my refrains. They listen. They sigh. As a result, in the last few years, I have become a sort of cheerleader/coach, as well as a writing teacher. This role came about as a result of a general lackadaisical attitude from my students that I find disconcerting and disheartening.
Last week I discussed the story of Malala Yousafzai with my Freshman Writing students. They were unaware of the occurrence, as they are of most happenings in the world, unless it's on Youtube or Facebook. As I'm sure you know, Malala is the young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for defying the Taliban and continuing to promote education for girls. I used her experience as an example of how one person can change the world. They listened. The class before we had discussed the importance of voting in the upcoming election. I encouraged them all to register and to vote, explaining that is was a privilege that they should not waste. As part of an assignment, I asked them to write a persuasive letter encouraging their peers to vote. I was dismayed that a few wanted to take the opposite stance and encourage their peers not to vote!
Today I saw a picture in the paper of a very young girl in Pakistan, writing on a make-shift blackboard hung on a nail in a crumbling building with peeling blue walls, in open definance of the Taliban. This brave little girl wants to learn to read and write so badly that she puts herself in harm's way. I plan to show the picture to my students in hopes of helping them to appreciate how desperate people in other countries are for an education, which many of them take for granted. Maybe this picture will hit home with my students. After all, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Causes Patricia Thomas Supports
Room to Read, UNICEF, Kiva, Save the Children, Pencils of Promise