Getting there together, but in our own way

By Lower Elementary teacher Amy Fujimoto

“We cannot create a sustainable future by preaching to others. We have to touch the hearts of the children we serve in order for them to find their own way.” This was written by Philip Gang, Ph.D., Academic Dean of The Institute for Educational Studies, in a 2011 lecture named “The Future of Humanity, Qualities of Survival.” I interpret this as education being a forest of trails where there are intersections between our hearts, our inspirations and our independence. Education can be more than recalling facts and information. Education can integrate humans on all levels, emotionally, intellectually and socially. Learning inspires and encourages people to grow.

Dr. Gang’s choice of the word “preaching” reminds me of old paradigms for learning, the idea that a teacher is full of knowledge, and students are waiting to get that knowledge. In that construct students are completely dependent on instructors for their growth. Dr. Gang uses the word “sustainability” which for me means that learning and growing happens regardless of the lone instructor. Sustainable systems have structures in place that guide growth. Learning can happen anywhere. A community could be working, learning and guiding each other. The information each individual person gains weaves into the blanket of shared information. My heart nudges yours and together we find things to be passionate about together.

I imagine two people walking down a forested path together, with the appropriate 6-foot distance between them, talking. As two people walk on a path they are facing the same direction. They see the same terrain, the roots to step over and branches to gently move out of the way. I give you distance to walk independently and at your own pace. I am not grabbing your arms to force you on my side of the path.

If one person is preaching and the other is listening, the two people are looking in completely different directions. Walking together I can both share my story, and listen to yours easily, while at the same time, perhaps warn you of the uneven ground ahead. I can catch you if you stumble, and trust that you can walk the rest of the way. I trust that we can be together and apart at the same time. You might have long legs and long strides. I have flat feet that can get fatigued. We can reach a destination and yet have our own style of walking to get us to that place. I am grateful to be in this forest, on these paths with all of you.