Tess - Monastic Education - Myanmar
What three things do you do differently after your program at the East-West Center (SUSI/YSEALI)?
Educating for sustainability and environmental protection Before I finish the course, I promised the mentors that I will write a training manual on environmental education which didn't happen as the way I expected. The reason was I was occupied with teacher trainings in delta regions and later I realise that I could incorporate environmental awareness in the normal lessons that I use to teach. In subjects such as literacy, numeracy, science, geography and history, I highlighted how environmental education is related so students/teachers don't feel stress about having another extra subject which is environmental education.
What I have done might not have big impacts in the community but it was effective for individual students since they have changed their way to see things around them. In addition to that, I taught "Education on sustainability" unit in a university program where fellows were encouraged to do research, make advocacy plans and implement action plans in schools and beyond. That program is the result of the collaboration between Monastic Education Development Group, where I am currently working and Australian Catholic University, where I studied my masters.
Glocal (global + local) minded community member My exposure to different fields of study and people from diverse background equipped me to think globally and my connection with my local community made me act in the local way. In SUSI program where I had opportunities to talk and interact with amazing young people from different countries, helped me to have confidence in working with people with different abilities and beliefs. After talking to many people in the program, I learnt about different initiatives and perspectives which made me relate to what was happening in my community. So as soon as I finish the program, I tried to think of programs which fits the community.
Self-practices to reduce, reuse and recycle waste Telling other people what to do and what not to do will not really change their harmful behaviors towards environment as much as we expect. Education can be more effective when the educators themselves can be role models for those students and people around them. I started to show how it is right to do at home. For example, I do not throw rubbishes on the street or anywhere but only in the proper places. I try to bring basket to the market and said no to take most of the things in plastic bags. When I could walk, I walk and when I need a vehicle, I chose bicycle more. Simple things like that helped them realize that actions of individuals can have big impacts in the future.
What impact did the program have on your career?
There have been so much to learn throughout the program which I could apply and I actually applied in my work field. As a teacher, there are many possibilities to apply in class with students and sharing with other teachers.
Educator with environmental awareness I am not an expert on environmental issues around the world but I am aware of them and I know how environmental education can be integrated into our normal learning procedures. So one of the three things that I consider for my lessons become as if the lesson will raise awareness of sustainability which can be environmental or economical or more. I become proactive in advocating people about the importance of everyone in protecting our environment.
Starting Santi-Saya playcenter and library After seeing many new things in Hawaii and DC, I wanted to start a library at home. I couldn't have it until last year because of financial constraints. Luckily, I could save up some money to start the library program. My parents were very supportive that they gave me a piece of land that I could build a library which is under-construction right now. I used up all my savings and received some supports from my fiancé to start the project. After more than 7 months on the streets, in religious institutions and many places to have the program for children in my community, we will soon have a proper place to learn and explore different topics such as environment, interfaith, peace, history, arts, music and many more. I still keep a present from Lance which he donated to my future library too.
What issues are you most passionate about in your daily life?
Generally, Education is vital part of my life and I have been in education field as a teacher, trainer and now as a Primary Teaching Specialist, for more than a decade. The following are what I am really passionate to do.
Inclusive education I care about valuing the differences and providing quality education to everyone regardless of their differences. In Myanmar, children including me was discriminated against the race, ethnicity, beliefs and other various reasons. I know how hard it is to cope with such situations so I am interested in encouraging teachers, principals and people in the community about quality and inclusive education.
Peace building and conflict transformation Conflicts are everywhere in Myanmar, from things such as divisions between different communities up to civil war. So I have been doing peace building and conflict transformation through facilitating religious leaders, educators and community member to understand the value of differences.
Solving sustainability issues through education As I am aware of problems in environment and cause of unsustainability, I am interested in educating, advocating and facilitating the learning about sustainability.
Storytelling Storytelling is my passion which can also be identified as a main tool I used to educate different topics such as inclusive education, peace, and environmental issues.
How have you come to see leadership?
It has been almost 7 years after I joined SUSI and so many things changed. The way I saw things in the past and now are quite different too. I have worked as a teacher, teacher trainer, now Primary Teaching Specialist and have been offered to lead Innovative Education Team in my organization. Not only the roles of the job define me as a leader but also what I do for my professional and personal development make me a leader of myself. From seeing myself being able to lead myself, I believe that everyone is the leader of themselves and depending on how they lead themselves, that will define how much they can lead others or not.
Throughout my life, I always have believed that good leaders support people around them. They don’t necessarily have to be expert in everything but if they can support people to continue learning, we can make difference. That’s also that reason why I have been working so hard to train other educators to think globally and act locally. In addition to that, I started the playcenter and library to encourage people from community whether they’d have been in school or not, to join as someone who can share something valuable to the new generations since I believe that no matter people have been in school or not, they have their own passion and talents. So my job as a leader of the center is to find out who has what talents and support them to use them in a good way. I do similar in my teacher trainings too.