On this UN Day, I thought it was fitting to tell my story of how I got started with The Sustainable Development Goals.
I was searching everywhere to find my purpose, but what I realized is that I knew what it was the whole time. Only now, I had a broadened perspective about not only how the world worked but how I wanted to have an impact on how it worked. For me, it has always been education. SDG 4- Quality Education for All- spoke to me immediately and caused me to reflect on the experiences that led me to feel so strongly about not just getting students to school, but how to provide the best conditions and experiences for learning once they were there.
Most of my teaching career took place in low-income schools where resources were scarce, and teachers had to improvise and innovate daily. I worked with some of the most creative, inspiring, and caring individuals. I worked at a school that was deemed ‘failing’ by the state when I arrived, but in those three years, I learned more about myself as a teacher and more about learning than I ever thought possible. My third graders learned about equity, scarcity, government, leadership, taking action, how to be part of a group, and so many other things that didn’t factor into the school grade. They learned how to listen, how to observe, and how to think for themselves.
On sabbatical, I learned first hand the power of education in a place with little opportunity. Despite being far away from the city center and always in need of funds, this school provided not only an opportunity to learn but three meals a day, clothing, and a roof over their students' heads if they needed it. They took care of each other, and they welcomed me with open arms. These creative children sang, danced, grew a garden, and wrote their own plays. Their program was innovative and forward thinking. I felt honored to observe most days, teaching me about quality education at its core.
SDG 4 was a living, breathing part of my mission in the small seaside village in Honduras. I woke up each day thinking about it, and it informed each lesson I wrote. I worked with a nonprofit to create and implement a project-based English curriculum for the children who showed up each day before or after school with big smiles and even bigger personalities. By that point in my life, I knew that the work that I continued to do would center on this goal.
Working in these three places over more than a decade, under very different circumstances, led me to not only become passionate about global education but about how global issues, particularly the goals, can be the framework from which all teaching begins with the goal of empowering students to become active global citizens. While I am no longer a classroom teacher, I am still an educator. I am committed to doing what I can to reach as many students and teachers as possible through the content I create, the relationships I build, and through the stories I tell.
Why do I care so much about the SDGs? Because I care about Aarthi and Tshwanee, Arianna and Elijah. The world’s children are everyone’s responsibility, and if we provide the opportunities for them to learn and think, then I don’t worry about the future of the planet because collective leadership across cultures and perspectives will save the world.