I could write a thousand words about my journey as a teacher, and how so many moments led to this day.
Each year, I bring my passions into the classroom, addressing topics of social justice, equality, peace, exploring with students what it means to be a global citizen who works to make a difference in the lives of those around us and a positive impact on the world. All of these are heavy themes that tenth graders delve into with impressive maturity. But never before have I encountered a group of students who have taken up my passions with me beyond the school year until this group called the Peace Leadership League.
This was our first year as a group, although most of them have been students in my class before. These students made it their dream, passion, and goal to spread peace, and so they planned our first ever High Tech High Chula Vista Peace Conference. Following hours upon hours of hard work after school and even over spring break and on weekends, the conference took place this past Saturday. Thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes.
The Peace Leadership League.
The conference began with our keynote speaker, Antolin Rodriguez, who leads laughter yoga as an avenue to inner peace. We laughed... a lot.
We cheered and got really excited.
He connected laughter to inner peace and we stood in a circle and sang "Imagine" by John Lennon.
Small group discussions.
The first workshop: Inner Peace.
The second workshop: Peace on our Campus.
Reading stories of kids who have been bullied throughout the United States.
Ribbons to represent the commitment to stand up against bullying.
The third workshop: Global Peace.
An activity to represent how women throughout the world need to be empowered more and given a voice.
Writing letters to women in India.
Final wrap up: students write their peace pledges.
Students scatter seeds for peace, to represent the potential for peace to grow out of small actions.
To represent their commitment to peace, students place their handprint with others.
After everyone left, it was just the Peace Leadership League, those students who planned out the entire day, and we celebrated.
I have never felt prouder as a teacher, and I tried to tell the students that as we sat in a circle debriefing, but all I could do was cry.
And many of the students cried too, because they felt so proud and empowered. Tears still come to my eyes as I write this now, thinking back to some of the words that were shared by students: "I've never felt prouder of myself." "I'm already dreaming of what we can do next year."
Really friends, there is so much hope for the world.