Ali, International Development Worker, MN
Ali works in international development and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was interviewed by her friend, Devanie.
Tell me about a child you care about - what makes them unique or special?
Shannon is in grade school and she is unique in a lot of ways. She was a very sassy little girl and very artistic, really good at piano and art stuff. She has two older sisters and she was really headstrong. At a young age she learned not to care so much about what people think. She’s a designer at heart - she knows how to capture things in a way that makes people look - she is really good at finding the beauty in things
Now imagine that child is now in their 30’s – out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make it a good or successful life?
I hope she finds a way to do what she loves but still have a lot of security in her life. Financial security, support from family and friends, and I hope she can use her creative talents at the same time. I feel like our generation definitely has this energy to make things better and to make a better future and I hope that is passed down to her generation, I hope she doesn’t feel hopeless.
What role should schooling play in achieving that good life?
When I think of K-12 school I think of it as a very foundational education, you learn about a lot of different subjects and that’s really important. I also think kids are so fragile and resilient at the same time when they’re young, so being in school is not just about the books but also about learning to interact with others. There is a large social aspect and learning to be a part of a society.
Do you think school plays the role you think it should for Shannon?
We were fortunate enough to go to schools that had good teachers that were supportive and inspiring and challenging at the same time. I was talking recently to one of my cousins and he was telling me how he never finished college and even in high school he felt like he never had a good teacher in his life. He doesn’t see education as very important so it was interesting for us being in the same family having such a different educational experience.
How did your parents navigate choosing a school for you guys?
Our parents knew they wanted them to have a Christian education. We had good public schools but they wanted us to have a moral base and one place to get that is in a Christian school.
What is the role of public schools?
You should learn morality and things in a public school. I think it should be there. Something I want to see my kids have as an experience that I didn’t have is exposure to diversity. By that I mean being surrounded by people that aren’t like you and learning how to form relationships with them. Also just exploring really diverse ideas and being developing a global mindset is important from a really young age. When I think of that, I also think about being a child and if you were presented with all of these different ideas, how do you ever figure out what is right or wrong? How do you make sense of the world? Schooling must be coupled with a moral base.
Will schools play the role it should for all children?
I don’t think they play that role now, but I do think they could. Again, for me personally I had a pretty good education experience so it definitely exists but in terms of getting that to all children, I have no idea how to make that happen. I do think school can play up our strengths more and let us be proud of who we are, and then maybe some kids would take a different path than they thought they should have. It all comes down to having really good teachers, and I think that means we need to pay them more and invest in them more. Teachers are key to making all of this happen.
Do people agree with you on each of those levels?
I would hope so, but there are people like my cousin that really don’t see the value in education. I do have to say that in all the places I’ve been in the world, there does seem to be a value on education. Globally at least a 6th grade education is truly valued. In terms of the specific things I value in an education for my children, I bet other people value different things. They may value more things like their child getting a job. It probably depends on their own experiences and their economic level.
What have been some of your most empowering educational experiences?
When I think about really good educational experiences, I think of the courses I took during my graduate school. Like when I did my course that focused on a consulting project in Tanzania. Those team projects for me personally are empowering. My strengths come out more in a team setting than if I am standing alone. Going through a process with a team and then actually going to the country and doing primary research was a really empowering thing just to see how a team from the University of Denver could make a difference in real life. I think we should see more of that in schools, how can we show kids that education matters and that it is going to impact them?
Through those kind of classes, it was the learning by doing type thing. I learned so much in my last job just being out in the field and hands on doing that stuff definitely was really great and really important and is important in education. Things like case studies are awesome and a great way to learn. But I also value the theory you learn behind it too, it gives it a little more structure. A lot of field work is unstructured learning, and you need a balance.
I also just had really good teachers growing up. I always felt supported, I was comfortable with them and could ask questions. That helped give me confidence in my intelligence.