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Introduction

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

Henry Adams

Peace is a never-ending process that demands constant attention and absolute commitment, but the rewards are great.

Starting Small

Since writing Learning the Skills of Peacemaking, I have returned to the classroom and have been teaching peacemaking to children and leading workshops for educators and parents. Along with insights gained from the many workshop participants I have met around the country, my students have been my most valuable teachers. They've led me to a deeper understanding of the application of peacemaking skills to many aspects of living and learning. Through this book I share my understandings of these applications, extending an invitation for you to step into my classroom through the pages of my journal and see how these skills are applied across the curriculum.

In Learning the Skills of Peacemaking, peacemaking skills are defined as follows:

  • acceptance of self and others
  • demonstration of respect for others
  • cooperation
  • conflict resolution
  • personal responsibility for one's actions
  • a sense of connection to and responsibility toward the larger world

The original 1985 field study for Learning the Skills of Peacemaking showed not only that children can learn to resolve conflicts, but also that when they do so, their self-esteem increases. Since my return to teaching, I have felt the need to observe children more closely, noting subtle changes in them when peacemaking is woven into the fabric of each day. I have seen that the hearts of young children, not yet hardened by the ways of the world, are open and ready to absorb lessons in peace. There is little to unlearn when a child is young.

Over the past two years I have closely watched my students in the process of learning and socializing, following them around with my journal as they engaged in math, reading, language arts, social studies, and science activities, and participated in collaborative projects. During school I would quickly jot down the children's conversations, noting the way they interacted with one another, and at the end of the day, when the room was finally quiet, I would sit at my desk digesting the notes I had taken, reflecting on what I had seen. Through this book I ask you to join me in the classroom seeing what I saw, learning what I learned.

A source of deep insight was the children's writing, which revealed much about their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. In Social Worlds of Children Learning to Write, Anne Haas Dyson said, ". . .the intertextual universe of the classroom itself attains sociocultural depth, as diverse genres, diverse cultural traditions, mingle on the classroom stage, giving rise to new possibilities, new speculations, new styles" . Dyson believed that when children are given the freedom to express themselves in language that is fully their own, a sociocultural depth comes to the classroom and possibilities for even greater self-expression emerge. In the safe environment of our peaceful classroom, children's minds thrived, hearts opened, and words flowed. Part II of this book focuses on this process and the clear link between writing and peacemaking.

My colleagues were enormously helpful to me in formulating new insights. Often, our conversations would deepen my awareness and help me gain new perceptions that might not have otherwise crystallized. In The Art of Classroom Inquiry Lee Odell said, "Exploration leads to further exploration, discovery to still further discovery". New understandings developed and new questions took shape through interactions with colleagues. As you begin to teach the skills of peacemaking, partner with a colleague who also is teaching peacemaking. You'll need to support each other as you journey through some unfamiliar terrain, exploring questions, discussing problems, and sharing successes. Its always better to travel a new path with a trusted partner.

Through my own process of continued observation, reflection, and sharing, I came to know my students of the past two years far better than any I'd taught in the previous eighteen years. The children you will meet in this book are representative of many others across the country, being of varied ethnic, sociocultural, and economic backgrounds, with a wide variety of learning abilities and differing family backgrounds. Many of my students had emotional challenges that surfaced through their writing and conversations; their courage to open up was a contribution to the tenor of the class. The safety, acceptance, and compassion of the peaceful classroom made their deep sharing possible.

As you teach peacemaking to your students, living these skills and attitudes in your own life is essential. By doing so, you will be far better able to model what you teach authentically—and authenticity is key. We need to teach children to do what we do, not just what we say.

It's also important to weave the skills and concepts of peacemaking into other areas of the curriculum as a process and as a vehicle for learning. When we do so, our students grow socially and emotionally, as well as academically. As the peaceful classroom takes root and grows, we begin to see that its homeostasis is achieved by each persons continuous investment in the well-being of others. A growing sense of interdependence then begins to flourish. The learning community is firmly established as a growing dynamic organism. Change takes root.

The process of peacemaking is exactly that— process. This book is not a simple "how-to," promising a peaceful classroom in thirty days if you follow its directions. The true meaning of this book will only be revealed to you as you live the concepts within it. To explain better what I mean, I must share the words of one of my editors, Tamera Bryant, who so beautifully framed her deep understanding of this idea in a letter to me:

. . . the peaceful classroom is never a product, certainly not a finished product. It' s a living, breathing organism that's always evolving and changing with each glimpse or grasping of a new insight or a deepened understanding.

No one can read this book simply for information. Although it's filled with facts, none of them working alone will help. The only way to learn from this book is to practice it. The only way to believe it is to do it. The only way to feel its effects is to live it. When teachers do that, this book will take on a whole new life. Layers of meaning will pile up everywhere.

May this book enable greater numbers of us to live the skills of peacemaking, and in doing so, imbue our students with its essence, so that together we may contribute the possibility of peace for all people.


 

Copyright © 2002 by Naomi Drew. All rights reserved. Site Map