Education is rarely glamorous, no matter where it’s taking place.
It’s particularly less glitzy when you spend 10 hours a week on buses winding through mountain roads in rural China, use trough toilets at schools, and wake up to observe 6:50 AM classes.
But when someone like Tom Friedman of the The New York Times calls you and your colleagues “the anti-Al Qaeda”, that feels pretty darn fancy.
Tom Friedman joined almost 300 Teach For All education reform leaders around the world from 32 countries last week in Tengchong, Yunnan Province where Teach For China hosted the annual global conference.
We had students from our Teach For China classrooms attend and speak this conference, as well as participate in these sessions. We got to discuss what a truly contextualized vision of transformational impact may look like in our communities. We analyzed examples of leadership from alumni in the Teach For All network from India, America, the UK... My mind is still reeling from the experiences and will eventually come out with an articulate reflection, but in the meantime, here’s an excerpt of Tom Friedman’s column this week.
... Teach for All is "the anti-Al Qaeda." It is a loose global network of locally run teams of teachers, who share best practices and target young people in support of a single goal. But while Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to inspire and enable young people to be breakers, Teach for All tries to inspire and enable them to be makers. Yes, plenty of terrorists are also well educated, but their ability to resonate and enlist followers diminishes the more people around them have the tools to realize their full potential. Groups like Teach for China, which hosted the Teach for All network at village schools here, are too new to determine whether they can make a difference in helping their lowest-performing schools succeed. But if raw idealism and willingness to take up the hardest challenges count for anything, you have to be hopeful. Traveling here last week was like spending four days with 32 Malala Yousafzais from 32 different nations. Lu Li, 23, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in May, returned home to teach math as a Teach for China fellow here. It was not easy, she said: "My parents could not understand the choice I made" after getting a degree. 'They have never been exposed to this sort of community service. They are kind people, but they don't think it is necessary to go to rural China to do education for two years, and, especially as a girl, my father expects me to marry. ... My father is still struggling to understand my choice. I want to work hard and show him that my choice is right.'"
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