By Raj De
Many of the 1961 Freedom Riders were students, much like me, yet they taught the world about courage, about injustice. Today, a young school teacher spoke to us in Rock Hill, SC and she emphasized that “Students are teachers,” using the Freedom Riders as an example.
Tonight at dinner, I had a fascinating conversation with three of my fellow student riders about how to infuse creativity into the American educational system—divergent learning that encompasses diverse solutions, focusing on civic innovation instead of purely service, understanding of self, and emphasis on valuing each student’s opinion. Feeling no barriers, we bounced ideas off one another and I found myself learning a lot from my fellow students, while adding to the discussion as well. Our model of conversation was even an example of one of our proposed methods of educational reform—exchange of ideas between students, “Students as teachers.” We were practicing what we had heard in Rock Hill, without even realizing it.
Our insistence on positive educational change was particularly special to me because of the work I am doing this summer. I am interning at the Spring Creek Literacy Project, an educational summer camp for middle school girls in the rural mountain community of Madison County, NC, a region where high school graduation rates can run as low as 50%. The project is only a year old and is still very malleable, so I can bring my own ideas to fruition. I left our dinner conversation with concrete ideas to apply within the Spring Creek project and with a renewed energy for social change.
If I could successfully implement some of the ideas we talked about at dinner into the Spring Creek curriculum, the Spring Creek girls would approach learning as integrated with teaching each other, with reflecting, with problem solving, with passion and spirit, without boundaries—“Students as teachers.”