LM is a Christ-centered Anabaptist educational institution that is dedicated to teaching and helping students to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Together faculty, staff and students are seeking to actively show Christ’s love and kindness in our words and actions by restoring relationships when they’ve been harmed, growing in deeper understanding of others, and finding creative solutions by Building Bridges of Peace together. Every day our teachers are authentically integrating our school’s Core Values into their courses and interactions with our students. Here are a few examples of how our teachers see the Core Value of Build Bridges of Peace exhibited in their classroom, our school and among our students.
I remember being at an education conference in which the facilitator, acknowledging the various limitations of getting our students on numerous field trips, challenged us to bring the world to our classrooms. Challenge accepted. This past year, the parents, grandparents, community members, fellow students, fellow teachers, and international visitors who have come to our classrooms have enriched our learning beyond what I, as a single teacher, could ever do. These class guests have been the bridge builders, creating a shared understanding between their worlds and experiences and those of our students that we strive to create as an educational institution.
These bridges of understanding were constructed thanks to the time, vulnerability, and authenticity of our guests in sharing their personal stories and perspectives. The older student who shared about her parents’ journey from Eritrea to the United States as refugees during the international cultures unit, the parent who compared his native Canada to the United States to break down stereotypes in the regions of North America unit, the international student who taught the 6th graders to write their names in Mandarin Chinese during the Ancient Asia unit, and
the grandparent from Argentina who shared with AP Spanish students about challenges and triumphs growing up in South America represent a sample of the guests that enriched our learning this past year. Our understanding of others and of the world in general grew exponentially thanks to our many guest speakers – our human bridges.
In my 20+ years of teaching, I have learned that, no matter how masterful you are as a teacher, if you do not make connections with the students and they do not make connections with each other, teaching will have little impact. One method I use in building these bridges is to have bi-weekly cooperative circles where everyone in my class answers a simple question (or chooses not to) and then completes a short cooperative activity together. This past year was my first full year using these Circle Times with my math classes. While these circles usually do not relate directly to mathematics, the time spent is well worth it, enabling students to be more productive during the rest of the time.
When I gave my end of year survey, the Circle Times came up over and over again in response to things students enjoyed about class. As we make connections with others, we tear down the walls that divide and isolate us. This is why it is critical to build bridges of peace and develop
relationships and better understanding of others.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ASSOCIATION
For the past five years, I’ve had the privilege of advising the International Student Association (ISA) club. ISA provides an opportunity for High School students from various cultures to interact weekly, sharing customs and understandings from their home cultures, as well as connecting informally while doing fun activities.
During this past year we have discussed important topics such as mental health practices. Students have also shared about their home countries’ foods, clothing, music, and holiday celebrations. As ISA members share, listen, and ask questions, they grow in their understanding and appreciation for the diverse cultures represented at LM.
We want to honor Alice as she retired this year from teaching, and thank her for her 25 years of wonderful service to our students and community at LM! Thank you; thank you!
BEING WITH PEOPLE
When schools across the world shut down during the COVID pandemic, I realized within days the essence of why I teach: it’s being with the students.
Table groups in “Spiritual Formation,” the dual enrollment course I teach through Eastern Mennonite University, function as small groups during the semester-long course at Lancaster Mennonite. I intentionally place students in groups outside of their friend group and try to balance gender, race, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I invite them to create community over time, with a common commitment to keep Christ at the center and love one another into a safe and brave space. I know that I can only position the students to have this experience; it cannot be forced. But when it happens, students point to that group experience and say, “I thought I knew my classmates, but now I realize we rarely share our truth at that deeper level.” After all, true community is situated in teaching and in being with people.