World Educator Speech 05/02/17
On Tuesday, May 2nd our World Educator of 2016-2017, Eileen Hynes, joined us at Hamilton International Middle School to accept her award. Eileen gave a heartfelt speech that described the impact that learning about different peoples and perspectives can have on young students; genuinely exploring difference changes the way that young people engage with the world. Eileen said: “Today’s youth need more than ever to view themselves in partnership with youth everywhere, to listen to diverse ideas, and to collaborate to solve problems that are shared around the world.”
The World Affairs Council strongly believes in educating for global competency in order to build a more peaceful, more connected world. Our Global Classroom program promotes this goal by working with teachers and students across the state, and providing opportunities for international engagement and dialogue. In her speech on Tuesday night, Eileen Hynes expressed this mission with the clarity and conviction of someone who has been teaching in classrooms for more than 30 years and fully understands the significance of educating for a better future. Many in the audience requested copies of her speech; it is an honor for us to share World Educator Eileen Hynes’ full speech below.
World Educator Speech, by Eileen Hynes, delivered May 2nd, 2017 at Hamilton International Middle School
As we reflect this evening on the power of travel to change lives, I would like to begin with a blessing, On Meeting a Stranger by the Irish poet, John O’Donohue, On Meeting a Stranger: With respect and reverence, that the unknown between us might flower into discovery, and lead us beyond the familiar field, blind with the weed of weariness, and the old walls, of habit.
Thank you, Jackie and the World Affairs Council, Ryan and Maggie and the Global Classroom. I am honored to accept the World Educator award this year. I also want to thank Camille Hayward and all the teachers at Lake and Park. It is a privilege to work with teachers who share and inspire creativity, intellectual curiosity and honesty in the work we do with children and parents every day.
Camille often says, “It is not the extraordinary, but the ordinary”. Children need time and space, to discover for themselves, which is how we truly learn. It is how children learn the ways the world works, and how they move from the shelter of their families into the world, with a strong sense of self that permits them to move forward with eyes and heart wide open. And filled with curiosity and compassion, and an understanding of themselves as part of a much larger world. Curiosity encourages a mindset that questions the interconnectedness of all things, not if they are connected but how things are connected. We don’t need to doubt that there are connections to be found. Growing up with an awareness of multiple perspectives, children develop the habit of looking for another’s point of view. They expect their own view to be challenged, and develop flexibility in thinking and an appreciation for diversity of thought when working with others to solve problems.
My own journey down this path began with a class I took at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.
The opportunity came about because of a new professional development initiative at the school where I was working at the time. I was a young teacher with no credentials, but that didn’t stop the board of directors and the head of the school from trusting me and the rest of the faculty, and showing the faith they had in us, by providing unrestricted funds for teachers to craft our own professional development plan. I chose to take a class at the university. This was not a class in the education department. It was not a class that would teach me how to teach reading better or how to manage a group of children – The class was called State-Society Relations in Third World Countries, and it was taught by Rasat Kasaba. This was almost 30 years ago. Many of you know Professor Kasaba, as a global thinker and a gifted educator. He went on to become the Director of the Jackson School, where he is today. He profoundly altered how I would focus my energy as a teacher of young children. Rasat’s class opened the world to me in a new way. It required me to seek an understanding of the interconnectedness of life on this planet. In class that spring, Rasat guided our exploration of different regions of the world, identifying the influence of world powers on indigenous cultures and the potential globalization had to affect the world. This was six years before the World Trade Organization even existed. Professor Kasaba encouraged us to view the complexities of each region of the world, and every situation, from the point of view of the people living there first, and then to understand the effect of the actions world powers were imposing in these places. It woke me up.
I understood from this point on that social studies was the lens I wanted to use to teach young children about the world. Now, my view of social studies is broad, encompassing the interconnected systems we use to make sense of things. It includes literature, the arts, and the sciences. I want students to look for patterns, make connections and take note of similarities and uniqueness. By developing attitudes and skills and building knowledge about the world, young children can learn about wonderfully complex topics – evolution, climate change, physics – all the while developing habits of openness, curiosity and compassion.
I want to return to the reason I took the class, this was one of my first professional development opportunities, and I was filled with gratitude, that I was given this chance to return to the classroom as a student. I was fortunate that I selected a class with one of the finest teachers in the country, and when I entered his classroom he took me on a journey to distant places and asked me to consider my impact, as a privileged citizen of the US. Since then I have never doubted the value of life-long learning, ongoing professional development, and the value of travel, both real and virtual. The World Affairs Council Global Classroom continues to play a significant role in providing teachers with accessible professional development, that invites us to virtually travel around the globe in three hour chunks of time, to Egypt during the Arab Spring, or to Kenya when we read City of Thorns together in a Global Classroom book club. The World Affairs Council also acts as a bridge, it has connected me and many other teachers over the years, to opportunities for real travel. Through association with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia I traveled to China, and with the Turkish Cultural Foundation, I traveled to Turkey. I was sharing the Turkish Art of Ebru just today with students as we marbled paper as part of our current study of the Silk Road.
Never underestimate the value of professional development for teachers. And when you have an opportunity to support it, please do. I would like to thank Katherine Cheng and Expedia for their support of educators and students, here supporting the essay contest, and by helping maintain the National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellows program. Global travel for teachers inspires us to bring the world into our classrooms. Today’s youth need more than ever to view themselves in partnership with youth everywhere, to listen to diverse ideas, and to collaborate to solve problems that are shared around the world.
Curiosity, not arrogance, compassion, not fear, and cooperation, not competitiveness are the attitudes to cultivate in educating the globally competent child. Thank you.