The Power of We: In The Memory of Malala Yousafzai [On Thinking Globally] #BAD12

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Malala Yousafzai

Have you ever felt like the things you do in the classroom connect to some other, higher purpose?


When I read about stories like Malala Yousafzai’s, it puts everything I do in the classroom in its proper perspective. For those of you who are unaware, Malala’s shown up in the news recently after Taliban rebels tried to assassinate her by shooting her in the head and neck for speaking out about education and women’s rights in Pakistan. The world has already seen a fair share of Muslim women, but what stood out for me is that she’s already posed a threat to such a nefarious group … at the age of 15.

Holy cow.

It makes me wonder how teachers can empower students to take ownership and advocate for themselves. It has scary implications for the adults who want all of the control all of the time, who prefer children to be seen and not heard, who won’t take the time to see what their students bring to the table rather than assume they know nothing, or, quite frankly, the adults who don’t care whether the students learned anything so long as they achieved on the test. This spans our entire school system, teachers included.

Yet, in Malala, we have another icon for students’ potential.

The more scaredy-cat nervous reader will say, “Well, I don’t want my students to get shot in the head and neck. They’re more effective alive and well.”

True. However, if you believe this, you’re missing the point. We can’t simultaneously believe that students these days don’t want to do anything AND we want them to become more informed. We as teachers have a responsibility to see ourselves as a primary interpreter for what children can see and do outside of their world view. Plus, coming where I come from, the alternative for getting shot for speaking out about injustice is getting shot for nonsense. I’ll take the former.

Malala, currently recovering in a hospital somewhere, has the courage of a person twice her age. Someone took it upon themselves to instill the virtues of learning more about what the world has to offer … and the obstacles she has to overcome in order to achieve true parity with her male counterparts. People with even a modicum of empathy cheer her on. But if the movement for students (girls in particular) to become more socially conscious citizens engaging in the problems and solutions for the world starts with her, then we have to prompt others to take that on.

This seems like a large task, but sometimes, it comes down to just having students reason it out, telling them, “I can’t tell you the answer. You say it.”

Jose, who is participating in Blog Action Day …