I realized recently that I haven’t been updating my blog very often lately primarily because I don’t have anything interesting to write about. Instead of exploring Seattle or going on interesting trips, I spend the majority of my time teaching, in class studying how to teach, or at home- preparing to teach or doing homework about the same topic. (Once again, I can’t wait to be done with grad school)! However, I’d like to keep this blog updated, so I’ve decided that, for the time being, I will just have to post about teaching.
That brings me to the video in the last post, ‘One Day Without Shoes.’
The theme for the unit I was teaching last week was ‘philanthropy.’ I find philanthropy interesting and a worthwhile topic to teach/talk about, so I looked forward to teaching this unit. While many American high schools and universities provide ample opportunities for students to volunteer with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, Relay for Life, and so on, this is not the case in many of the countries that my students come from. Although many of them are interested in volunteering, they generally have little experience doing so.
Throughout the week we talked about the organizations above, as well as several others, including an organization called TOMS shoes. TOMS is a company that sells shoes. However, unlike most companies, TOMS donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every one pair of shoes that a customer purchases. The shoes are given to children in developing countries who may have to walk for miles to get “food, water, shelter and medical help” (TOMS), who are unable to attend school without shoes, and who are at risk for developing debilitating diseases as a result of cuts and sores on their feet. Since their founding in 2006, TOMS has donated over 140,000 pairs of shoes.
It just so happened that on last Thursday, right in the middle of our unit, TOMS held a nationwide event, “One Day Without Shoes.” TOMS encouraged people who were aware of their organization to spend the day, or part of the day, barefoot in order to raise awareness of the issue. Several universities in Seattle organized group events for students to participate in. At SPU, students organized a barefoot walk from Martin Square, in the center of campus, to the Fremont Troll, under the Aurora Bridge. (A distance of about one mile).
Wednesday night my students watched the video featured in the previous post as homework. On Thursday, when they got to class, I removed my shoes and taught the three-hour class barefoot! (Don’t worry Mom, I asked my boss first, and he agreed that it would be hypocritical to teach wearing shoes that day)! I also told my students about the SPU event and invited them to join me for the walk.
Around 3:00 that day, eight of my students showed up at the university. We joined a group of about 25 SPU students and began the walk. It was a beautiful day for a walk (neither rainy nor cold) and a pretty enjoyable experience. A few people who were walking down the sidewalks in Fremont or in cars sitting at stop lights stopped to ask why the group was parading barefoot down the street, and participants in the walk explained about TOMS’ goal.
Although few people complained during the walk, by the end of it, when our feet were dirty and sore, we had all come to the same realization: We take our shoes for granted, and had never really appreciated having them before!
I don’t think anyone would say that giving shoes to children who have none is not a worthwhile cause. However, I have to admit that it wasn’t until after the walk ended that I realized how important shoes are, and how thankful I should be to have (many) pairs of them!
It has been said that to understand someone’s situation, you must first walk a mile in their shoes. I suppose if they have no shoes to walk in, you must first take off your own in order to understand their situation. On April 16th, people around the nation did just that.
*Thanks to Karam for the pictures!