The third week of our program begun with a lecture from Professor Margo Blackwell discussing the SDG goal of education. Blackwell described education as effectively a necessary preliminary measure we must take on before even discussing the other SDGs, and for good reason. Education is not only an informative tool, but one used to ascend social status. In order to reduce poverty, it is necessary to provide a population with higher education so that they can attain higher work with higher pay. In order to reduce to gendered inequality, it is necessary to provide women with educational opportunities that eventually allow them to achieve positions of high power. Hence, education is illustrated as a twofold measure. What was startling, however, was Blackwell’s description of the opposition to education in the Bahamas. Before 1960, there were no high schools – education was viewed to end at just 14 years of age; when high schools were installed, they were few and far between, receiving just a few students per year. Blackwell states that out of the 1100 11-12 year olds in her grade at the time, only 96 received a place in high school. In fact, Stafford Sands, the dubbed “father of tourism” of the Bahamas, stated “pool men don’t need beyond a 4th grade education.”
The rest of the week held this idea of education as key at heart, yet was far more reflective. We began to look back on our own experiences in education, considering what went wrong and what worked. For me, one of my largest takeaways was in reflecting how I learn, and how that had impacted my education. I myself am a visual learner – I need to be actively engaged with content for me to digest any of the information. Textbooks and the like do not work for me. But, documentaries, stories, videos – anything creative, really – are incredibly successful for me. Hence, the medium of education can vary my results greatly. Moreover, we were asked to reflect on our top priorities. This task had me thinking a bit longer. Ultimately, I concluded with three things I hold dear to me. 1) my relationships with others 2) my own success in whatever field that may be and 3) my mental health. Everything outside of that circle can be disregarded, but those three things, I wish I had learned their importance earlier.
Hence, in beginning to construct lesson plans surrounding the SDGs I began to reflect on the tasks we were given throughout the week. I wanted my lessons to engage in everyone’s different style of learning. Whether that be through creating something, or through reading, or through doodling, I just wanted it to engage with the student. I wanted the student to be excited about his project. Moreover, I wanted the project to emphasize relationships with others, and so in this sense, I wanted the project to be collaborative, both in and outside the classroom (family members, friends, and classmates). Not only do I think this is constructive in teaching students how to learn together, but I also believe it creates a multidimensional classroom filled with different perspectives.
Overall, my work in DukeEngage so far has offered my a different insight into education and into how I learn. I’ve been taught that education is the most powerful tool in changing the world; I’ve understood that education is not a one-size-fits-all tool, but rather one that should be tailored to each individual in order to be most effective.