Yesterday, as my students wrote, I looked around the room at each of them with a sense of pride for how hard they were working toward their goals. I also felt pride within, for choosing a profession that focused on developing thinking and encouraging choices through our own example and experiences that we, as teachers, offer our students.
Quietly, during this observation, Bill 21 (a bill the Quebec government is about to enact) passed before my eyes as if it were a backdrop for what will be and what is. I heard the many voices speaking out against the bill as if they echoed through the very halls of the building in which I was standing.
Then my mind drifted to many years ago; to a student, wearing a hijab, writing in my class. Did she want to be a teacher, a police officer, a judge? I thought about where her life may have taken her and suddenly, as if with a new reality in my life as a teacher, it hit me: how would I have answered her if she told me she wanted to be a teacher in Quebec? I could hear her ask, “Do I have the choice?”
I repeated the question in my mind and wondered: if she asked me today about Bill 21, what would I say to her? How could I answer the question without teaching the other students in the class what intolerance was? How could the others learn that showing one another compassion, respect and understanding is at the very core of what it means to be human, when some of the students in the very same class didn’t have the same options and choices? Today, based on Bill 21, that student would have to separate herself from her identity to be a teacher. If students learn by example, what would the example be, within this Bill, as she strove to make her dreams come true? These were the questions I was met with as an educator. I realized I didn’t know where to place what I felt at that moment other than in my writing.
How could I tell any student that a dream was only possible if they removed one part of themselves to become another? Teachers tell students they can do anything and be anything they want to be in life. We tell them what they seek and what they search for are both probable and possible with hard work.
As a human being and a teacher, I found myself looking around again at my students, each working hard to be what they wanted to be. I adjusted my stance in the classroom and realized that this role we call ‘teacher’ is much bigger than a few hours in the classroom. We are the point of reference for equality, change and tolerance.
I then created my own lesson plan called Humanity Needs our Tolerance. And, as an act of hope and faith, I kissed the cross I was wearing around my neck to remind me that humanity is more than what politics tells us. It’s what our hearts tell us to say when a little girl wearing a hijab says she wants to be a teacher. My response will always be:
“You can be whatever you want to be. All dreams are possible for everyone.”
Photo from Pixabay creative commons