Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My first day at DCPS

The District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) classroom was not exactly what I expected because I didn’t really know what to expect. Being a teacher’s daughter, I have had several opportunities to be in classrooms in the past and even teach a few classes. But Public Schools in Lagos is not the same as Public Schools in DC, hence I walked into this classroom with an open mind, but with a clear understanding of my purpose- to coordinate the One World Youth Project cultural exchange program.

Basically, the One World Youth Project connects Middle and High Schools globally for the purpose of cultural exchange and collaborative community service. For the past five years, we have connected about 67 schools in 26 countries. However, to be more effective and sustainable, we decided to expand to include Universities by setting up a program that will train University students to be cross-cultural facilitators and advocates in their local communities and also connecting universities globally through our network of participating institutions while bridging the disconnection that exist globally.

Oh well, the idea of bridging the yawning gap created by cultural stereotypes and religious diversity can be easily perceived as naïve. I mean, how can one close the disconnection that has existed for so many years even before this generation was born? Why does culture and cultural polarization seems to create more pain than gain? Is the beauty in our diversity fading?

As I sat down along with my team mates to listen to the 7th and 8th graders talk about what they think of culture, I began to see how deeply disconnected we are from one another- despite the popularity of technology age- the internet! It was disturbing to hear some of the kids say aloud in exasperation that life is a struggle and they wish we can start over. Isn’t that worth mulling over?

We recognize that no one in the world is exactly the same. But we all have many things in common and everyone in the world needs some of the same things- including basic amenities, respect and love. Everyone in the world needs God, forgiveness (all the “black people” hating “white people” (and vice versa) need to stop) and freedom, not just from an oppressive government but from people judging and stereotyping others. We need to create a deeper level of communication and connection that breeds mutual respect and understanding, empathizing but not the imposition of one’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs on others. Well, these were some of the thoughtful take-away I got from the youngsters in one of the DCPS. Despite the disconnection that exists, there is hope in our future after all because we are aware of this disconnection and awareness is the first step to restoration. The experience was rejuvenating.

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