Community Impact: Teachers Tell How They Transform Communities

Image: Esther advocates for peace and tells a gathering crowd about alternatives to gender-based violence on a field trip of the Deborah K. Moore School.

Young change agents do have a voice in Liberia, with the help of classroom teachers. At a gathering in December 2013, Liberian teachers said that they have begun to connect respect with science. They have also constructed projects that help students better learn, understand and apply their content knowledge. Through real-world altruistic action, they have challenged students to clean the community, to understand the complexities of agricultural projects and to learn about global economics. In this post-war country, they have helped students choose patience and forgiveness as a way of life. These were some of the many messages the teachers shared with board member Fariba Mahjoor at the Full-Circle Learning (FCL) Teachers’ Forum. They praised FCL African program director Davidson Efetobore and implored him to take FCL teacher education training to all the rural schools, saying, “This is what our country needs.” Fariba traveled to Monrovia Liberia as a board representative, to study the community impact of integrated education at the 26 collaborating schools whose teachers had been trained in Full-Circle Learning strategies. The educators commented that while the Minister of Education has a program to open schools, they have seen a different kind of impact now that the students have learned respect. This impact depends on professional development in specialized curriculum design and support strategies for teachers. They told Fariba, “You may know your subject well but may not be managing your class well. As you and they learn about habits-of-heart, you will manage the class better.” Fariba also visited a gathering of the Girls United Clubs from several schools. (FCL formed the Liberian chapters in response to the UN Millennial goal for Liberia to eradicate childhood marriage.) The meeting agenda included the girls’ upcoming poetry anthology. The book’s themes will encourage other girls to stay in school and will be offered as a gift to local libraries and schools, where books by local authors are in short supply. “This is such an important place for the girls to be,” said Fariba, after hearing them share their experiences in the clubs. “They can support each other here and create an alternative peer culture for girls.”

Image: David stirs the crowd with his speech about the need for peace and positive character traits. Fariba Mahjoor is shown in the background.

Image: Representatives of three Girls United Clubs meet to discuss the impact this Full-Circle Learning program has had on their lives.

During the community impact visit, Fariba also attended the FCL field trips pictured in this article. She visited schools and made a wisdom exchange presentation on behalf of the Tarzana Full-Circle Learning Habits-of-Heart Club, where students had made pillow case flags to represent the oneness of the human family during their unit on Universal Connectedness and global health. Fariba challenged students to maintain their humanitarian goals, telling the inspirational story of her husband Fasha, whose separation science company makes cures available to benefit global health. He had won many humanitarian awards, and coincidentally, the Mahjoors had just come from receiving an honor from the prince on her way to Liberia. On the last day of the community impact study, our board member watched the teachers from the many partner schools embrace the Regional Program Director, tell how they would miss him, and say goodbye to their co-mentors at partner schools before the holiday break. She was deeply moved. The school leaders’ creative practices and common vision had helped them inspire one another as they deepened their sense of purpose in the community transformation process. Fariba’s email message to the board said simply, “You would be crying if you were here right now.”

Image: Students prepare to take their message to the community.

Image: Students from Kingdom Foundation International set out to clean their community as a culminating unit project. Neighbors came out to pay them and could not believe that their goal was to create more sanitary conditions and to set an example for others.

Image: A teacher introduces the “Heroes” class at the New Hope Foundation School, a recent collaborator.

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