ISSN 1710-6931 September 3, 2010 Issue 157

 Back to the Newsletter

The Ripples from A Teacher: Freja's Story

Inspiring people are all around us. And Freja Solomon, a Humanities teacher from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School at Massachusetts, United States of America, is one of them.

Driven by her love of engaging young people in studying social problems and taking action to create a more just world, she enrolled her class in RESPECT International's Letter Exchange Program, through which non-refugee students and refugee students communicate through pen-pal letter exchange.

Disappointed by her teaching experience in a public school which she regarded as pedantic and often sapped the joy out of learning, Freja decided to study alternative education theories and models while in college. She obtained a degree in education social change which combined her love of education and passion for social justice.

Later, she earned a Master of Arts Degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Social Justice. Since then, she has been teaching humanities to middle school students, more specifically social studies and language arts, for five years and absolutely loves her job.

Freja and her class spend a big part of their school year studying the effects of war on children. As part of her teaching initiatives and an effort to motivate her students, Freja and her students organized a fundraiser at a local bookstore to buy winter coats for Iraqi refugee children living in Jordan.

Her students performed songs and read their own poetry, monologues and speeches and they also sold baked goods. The experience proved to be extremely successful and empowering. Motivated by the wish to make a change and to help, Freja's student enthusiastically embraced her idea when she told them about the idea of having pen pals in a country affected by war.

As one would think, dealing with children in the age group 11-13 years is not easy, and sensitizing them towards issues like refugee children, problems faced by them and motivating them to write letters to them could be a herculean task.

In Freja's experience though, this is not always true. She is of the opinion that young people are naturally responsive to issues of fairness and justice because they are no stranger to the feeling of being treated unfairly at home, at school, and in society.

By educating her students to learn to put themselves in the shoes of others, Freja managed to motivate her students to stand up for others who are being mistreated. Once these young minds realize that they do have some power to change things in the world, they become very excited to try to use this power.

Education is the key to change. Especially in the personal development of young people, education plays a crucial role in shaping their personality and attitude. Freja believes that it is essential to engage young people in social change work because it shapes their sense of what it means to be an active citizen and gives them important skills for life.

Partly owing to the adult's wish to "shield" their children from the "cold hard reality", children are always told that they still have plenty of time ahead of them, and that they are still being prepared for "the real world", which they will face, someday.

This approach of education often makes children think that they have to wait until they are 18 to have their voices and opinions matter. But Freja's effort in engaging her students in humanitarian activities from a young age has taught us otherwise.

Many of her students have shown measurable change in their attitude and became more empowered to stand up for what they believe in. They see themselves as agents of change, instead of passive and helpless in the face of great injustices in our world. This awareness can go a long way in shaping the world-view of these children who will one day be the leaders of our world.

 Back to the Newsletter