Mady Stoakley was a youth presenter at ICM’s “Coming Together for All Children” a Welcome and Rededication Celebration. She shared the following thoughts for “Called by My Faith:”
My name is Madeline Stoakley. I'm a member of the Johns Creek Baha'i community, and I am 17 years old. I am currently preparing to leave the country to teach children in San Salvador, El Salvador. It’s a popular tradition in my faith to take a year off from school (usually after high school) and to just serve the community. A lot of youth choose to pioneer in another country rather than stay in their homes. I will be teaching English and virtues classes in a local school in San Salvador (the Ridvan school).
Education of children has always been a big thing in the Baha'i faith. We have Virtues classes that we conduct in our individual neighborhoods, and we work with the kids and help them practice the everyday virtues they will need to live in society (i.e. patience, kindness, truthfulness, love, assertiveness, tact...etc.). A typical virtues lesson will consist of explaining to the kids what the virtue of the day means, how they can practice it, and how to help each other practice it.
Then we learn games, songs, or activities that help strengthen their confidence with the virtue. And finally, at the end, they colour or draw pictures, and we ask them to explain to us what they got out of the lesson. We will usually stretch each virtue over the course of 2 or 3 lessons depending on how quickly they seem to be learning it.
This process may seem really straining to repeat each week, but it really works. The kids (2-10) actually learn theses virtues. I've had it happen time and time again where I will be goofing off with one of my co-teachers, and one of the kids will call my name and tactfully point out that I wasn't being as kind as I could be, or that I could try harder to be patient with some of the more difficult kids in the class. As embarrassing as it is to have a 4-year-old point out that I'm not being the best example, it brings me so much joy to hear that they know how to recognize when their peers are using virtues in everyday life.
I hear a lot of people say things like "Well, I'm not really good with kids...so, I'm not going to teach." That is perfectly fine! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing people step outside their comfort zone and letting loose with the kids! However, as a teacher, I am constantly looking for new resources to help provide a place to hold the class, or someone who would be willing to buy a pack of juice boxes and some small snacks for the kids to eat.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a table with a friend of mine. (She is four, by the way.) And I was just talking to her about how her day was, what she wanted to do the next day, and just being silly. And she looked up at me and said "Mady you're my favorite. Because you're perfect!" (I’m not trying to toot my own horn here either!) It just made me realize that it doesn't take very much at all for a kid to find a friend. They are the most pure beings on this planet. And if we don't do everything in our powers to help them stay that way, then when they grow up, our world will just get worse and worse.