Admiring One World Students' Grace and Determination: A Teacher's Perspective

Earlier this spring, I spent every Tuesday afternoon trekking across DC to work with a group of 50 middle and high school students from around the city. They were preparing to present their ideas on social justice issues relevant to their lives.

Several things struck me. More than relying on their teachers, the students relied first on each other in reviewing and improving their presentations. The students took their own ideas and the ideas of their peers seriously. I never had to remind one of my students to stop and listen. It was almost as if they could sense the enormous leadership gap in the country today and decided  that they needed to be preparing themselves to fill this void.

It was equally refreshing to see students’ fresh perspectives compared to my more jaded views of certain issues. I’d never thought about life from the perspective of a child of a teenage mother until I heard Tyaja speak. Despite being scarred physically and emotionally, she has decided not to blame her mother. She doesn’t think she knew any better. Tyaja instead has committed to raising her voice to stop teenage pregnancy so that no other child has to go through what she went through. I look forward to seeing the impact of this passionate young woman.

I also realized that the anxiety caused by the country’s crackdown on immigration touches many more than the millions who already live in daily fear of deportation. I sympathized with a young woman who worried every day that she was going to lose her best friend to an ICE raid. I appreciated that she did nothing to hide just how upset she is with what she and her friend are facing.

Everywhere I turned, I found students dealing with challenging issues in their lives but doing it with grace, determination, and imagination.

Like so much with teaching, what I started out doing for my students may have benefited me more, reminding me not to underestimate what our young people can do if we support and challenge them.

Michael Veale is a 7th grade teacher at Achievement Prep PCS who joined One World as a member of the Teacher Leader Team, a group of six classroom teachers who help provide additional afterschool support to students participating in the One World Ambassador Challenge. 

Click here to see a recap of the 2018 Ambassador Challenge

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