A diverse international panel of education professionals explored how teachers as role models can prepare students to be agents of peace at the March 30, 2022, virtual Peacesharing Forum session “Strengthening Educator Capacity for Peaceful Schools.”
A more holistic education focused on character growth, guided by educators who model conflict resolution and demonstrate integrity, is the most effective way to bring about peaceful schools, panelists said.
Global Peace Foundation Vice President for Education Dr. Tony Devine opened the panel by noting that “beyond teaching cognitive skills, educators are also moral and ethical role models for their students.” Since students emulate what they see on a daily basis, he said, creating agents of peace begins with the attitudes and actions of teachers.
Ashok Pandey, Director of Ahlcon Group of Schools in India, spoke about how teaching and practicing empathy, equality, and structured ways of resolving conflict in the classroom are methods of facilitating peace.
Children learn best by observing and then modeling behavior, added Patrick Teyie, Headmaster of Greensted International Schools in Kenya. Learning conflict management and resolution skills on a small scale allows them to then apply those concepts to a larger scale to affect change.
Other panelists noted that developing relationships and building trust is a proactive process that teachers can model, which helps prevent escalation. Co-operation Ireland Program Director Matt Gamble shared how the organization brings together young people from different schools through a variety of themes to encourage students to play an active role in promoting peace in their local communities.
“Beyond teaching cognitive skills, educators are also moral and ethical role models for their students.”
Social-emotional learning is one aspect of becoming an agent of peace that Arthur Schwartz, President of Character.org USA marked as lacking in current school programs. Traditional “head work,” such as critical thinking, is measured by exams and graded; however, “heart work,” which Mr. Schwartz refers to as character growth, has no standardized form of measurement but nevertheless plays a key role in transforming students into agents of peace.
The panel also examined the importance of teaching the skills of dialogue and communication while resisting impulsive, violent reaction. A holistic approach to education, nurturing respect for other people and encouraging students to take ownership of their character growth, were important topics discussed.
Unlocking the potential of students to become more compassionate and empathetic isn’t something just learned from a book but begins with the training and outlook of educators, panelists agreed. Training educators who have a passion to see positive change, to be effective role models, is the foundation of any transformative plan. Character growth begins with the individual on a small scale, and a holistic education ensures that students practice character growth which is necessary to becoming an agent of peace.
Educators can be the backbone of creating a generation of “peace-mongers ”; any transformation in how students around the world are taught begins with them. Preparing educators to bring these moral values into the classroom is vital to creating agents of peace among today’s youth.
The five session Peacesharing Forum was co-sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation and Co-operation Ireland and is available to view On-Demand.