17 July 2020
ARU graduate Eliza tells how her degree study gave her so much more than just a qualification, as it helped shape her decisions on what she wanted to do and where she wanted to be in the future.
Before attending ARU (Chelmsford) I studied Social Work in two different universities in New York and after completing both degrees, I felt as though there was still something missing. Fast forward a year and I had accepted my conditional offer to attend ARU and pursue my MA in Early Childhood Education, I wasn’t sure what to truly expect from both my course or fellow peers but to say I was pleasantly surprised doesn’t begin to describe it.
My classroom peers and I were not a melting pot but rather a beautiful mosaic of different people, dreams and perspectives. My course was filled with international students from around the world, ranging from India, Ghana and Lebanon to England. A range of diversity, experiences and perspectives that my professor not only valued but encouraged us to share, thus creating a more collaborative approach to our learning within the classroom.
I took a class on Principles, Practices and Professionalism and was able to dive deeper into beliefs and values that underpin education and different pedagogy; aspects of practice that we may want to replicate within our own classrooms and professionalism, amongst not only peers but also when working with families.
Whilst finishing up my final course I began to think about all I had learned from my peers, my international policy perspectives and enquiry for early childhood courses. I reflected on how much I loved living abroad and working amongst a diverse set of people and this inspired me to take my classroom learning and apply them in the real world. Which was how I came to live in Fiji and volunteer abroad as a Community Youth Empowerment Facilitator. My job assignment was to teach at a local school and work with the youth in my village.
Fiji, a developing country in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. I lived on the main island Viti Levu in the high lands of Naitisiri province which is composed of beautiful rolling green landscapes, mountains and rivers.
In Fiji I put into practice the wisdom I had gained about SDG goals and children’s right to access quality education into my classroom. My co-teacher and I worked together on turning our classroom into one that helped us facilitate children’s learning and development, utilising things such as making our own whiteboard and behavioural management charts, creating calm corners, calm packs, ‘student of the month’ and literacy files, as well as starting the first ever creative writing class for our students to practice their English language and critical thinking skills.
My studies and my own experience as a child who struggled with literacy led to my championing access to libraries and information.
I worked on a USAID grant with my community to obtain funds to build both a community library and medical dispensary within our village, turning the community hall into a community centre. I used the activities learned from my ARU studies to help plan out the library room set-up and the kind of additional resources besides books that I wanted available to both adults and youth. I championed and collaborated with my local school to create their first school library and worked with my community on creating the first ever ‘Mommy and me’ classes in the province.
ARU taught me that the mind is not a vessel to be filled but rather a fire to be kindled, which has created a path and carried me through different opportunities in life. 'Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all', but I am blessed to say that my Early Childhood Education course did both.
By Eliza Torres, ARU Alumnus & Case Management Youth Counsellor
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