By Roger O’Halloran – Palms Executive Director
This edition of Global Educator highlights education outside the classroom. When teaching in a school I always found learning outside the classroom to be more inspiring for the learners and the teachers. While Palms receives many requests for teachers to work in schools and our teachers do some fine work in classrooms, every Palms assignment, across all sectors, is designed to facilitate learning and development.
Two great educational philosophers encourage the required thinking for our approach:
“Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself” John Dewey
“Removing the Teacher-Student dichotomy so that each is simultaneously student and teacher.” Paulo Freire
Health workers in a clinic, trades people on a construction site or administrators in an office, have some valuable skills to pass on, but for this to happen they must put themselves in the hands of the host community as learners, to understand the cultural context and build trusting relationships with local counterparts.
As Executive Director at Palms Australia I learn in relationship with all involved in the program. Beyond the many inspiring participants who offer 12 months or more to share their skills, I have learnt through relationships with applicant’s referees, Encounter participants, and have been privileged to be inspired by many members of communities who host those we send on assignment.
Vision for Learning
When living Palms’ vision to reach “… beyond every barrier of culture, religion, nationality, gender, class and individualism” learning outside the classroom is unavoidable. Intentionally offering paths to diversity, creates diverse opportunities for mutual growth and development not reliant on a classroom. In the spirit of indigenous educator and activist Lilla Watson the introduction to Palms Mission calls us to “Facilitate and be open to mutual formation and inspiration …”.
Both aims of Palms Mission ask us to be teachers and learners without entering any classroom. The first aim seeks to engage “Australian and international communities in shared action to achieve just, sustainable, and peaceful development.” The second, more specific aim, asks us to “exchange knowledge and skills to meet the requests of communities seeking to reduce poverty”.
Very clearly Palms’ primary objective is for mutual development. Some might assume that those from the “developed world” take up an assignment to teach the skills that encourage our version of development. What lessons can “developing” countries possibly teach us? On my Palms placement I learnt we can live in greater dignity with less and be tangibly more sustainable.
I am not suggesting absolute poverty is dignified. It clearly denies one’s human right to live life to the fullest, but many communities give witness to dignity that is achieved without being super exploiters of resources, and uber consumers raping and pillaging the environment. In his recent encyclicals Pope Francis is calling for action based on the lessons of this realisation.
To fully achieve the first aim of Palms Mission requires us to inspire and educate the Australian community with these values and provide the processes to convert us all. This important learning first requires us to better connect Australian communities to the program through those who go away. Palms is hoping soon to facilitate this by devoting some staff capacity to the required work.
Backing our current Fundraising Appeal: Reaching Beyond 2021 will assist this very important new dimension of Palms education. Please DONATE HERE
Feature image: Palms participant Liz O’Sullivan with counterparts, Thailand April 2020