Teachers are responsible for teaching students what they need to know, but it’s more important to teach them how to think for themselves. Students need to know how to read so they can consume information, but they need to know how to write so they can connect the dots and communicate their unique thoughts. Students learn how to formulate opinions when they are exposed to thought provoking content and open-ended questions.
This week, we celebrate Ms. Gerez’s class from Mexico that took part in The World Through My Eyes. Each of her students were paired with PenPals from around the world and watched Films by Kids documentaries made by young people in Mozambique, Tibet, India, and Colombia. Students reflected on what they learned with their fellow PenPals, exploring topics like displacement, education, and tolerance.
Home Is Where You Find It tells the story of Alcides, one of the 500,000 children in Mozambique who have lost parents to AIDS.
“I think Alcides chose to share his story for us to be grateful for what you have and also to always take advantage of the opportunities life gives you.”
My Country Is Tibet is about Trichen, the exiled teenage king of Tibet.
“If the UN chose me and my PenPals to solve this problem between Tibet and China, I would propose the following solutions: to allow Tibetans to express and learn their religion and beliefs, force the now government-in-exile of Tibet return to its country in order to govern better, make Tibet an independent nation from China, and both nations should agree to not take military action against each other when there is a conflict.”
Fire In Our Hearts showed PenPals the life of Jayshri, an Indian girl who was taken out of school at the age of 7 to raise her four brothers.
“Education is the resource that makes the world grow economically and culturally because knowledge will be passed on to more people and we learn from ourselves.”
Poet Against Prejudice introduced Faiza, who was bullied after immigrating to New York City because of her Islamic identity.
“Faiza faced bullying because of her way of dressing and beliefs, but then she became an activist. I think we should make people from other places feel comfortable and part of our society, so that they can feel safe and express their thoughts and even give us more knowledge about their culture.”
These PenPals had such insightful responses not just because they watched thought provoking documentaries made by other students, but because they were discussing their learnings with other PenPals around the world.
“I like PenPal Schools because I could communicate with people from other parts of the world and share opinions about different topics. We watched the same video and read the same article, but we had different opinions and perspectives due to our country, problems that are in our country, education we receive, and culture.”
That’s how students think for themselves. First, they discover new topics through close reading and research, then they consider their own background and the opinions of others. Then, they bring it all together and communicate glowing words of wisdom of their own. Reflection is much more valuable than regurgitation. Thank you, Ms. Gerez, for sharing your students’ bright, curious minds with our global PenPal community!
Want your students to step in another person’s shoes and join the conversation with other PenPals? Enroll your class in The World Through My Eyes.
Read more from students who have participated in The World Through My Eyes:
PBL Example: Student explores diverse perspectives through documentary filmmaking