The Shipley Magazine

Elanur Eroglu '15: : How Can Schools Shape a Better World?

About Elanur Eroglu ’15
Elanur Eroglu ’15 is pursuing her M.S.Ed. in Reading, Writing, and Literacy at Penn Graduate School of Education. She recently completed her M.Phil. in Children's Literature from Trinity College, Dublin. She has worked as a student teacher in the Philadelphia School District, and taught at Sheridan Elementary School. 

How can school’s shape a better world?
The need to prepare youth to be active participants in democracy is urgent, and I believe schools hold significant responsibilities in creating a just and equitable world. As adults, we also need to hold ourselves accountable. What does it mean to foster hope, especially in instances where persecution, pain, violence, discrimination, and intergenerational hurt persist? Within the hostile structures of systemic injustices, what does it mean to hold a wish, or a dream, in your heart? 

Too many times, the words “hope” and “community” have been watered down, empty emblems in these highly divisive times—the word “fellowship” synonymous with deep distrust, linked to abuses of power, fear, and judgment. Yet, in the words of Pauli Murray, hope is nearest to our pain and worry, it is closest when all seems lost. In its wake, community-building requires care, and learning communities must maintain commitments to truth, integrity, kindness, inclusivity, trust, and criticality—and schools are central spaces where these commitments are engaged with and realized. 

As students question and explore the multiple aspects of their selfhood(s) alongside community identities, teachers provide ample opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge, creativity, critical thinking and learning through differentiated outlets, building hope and trust in uncertain times. 

In my heart, I believe that healing occurs through learning, and in some cases, "unlearning." Yet, the burdens placed on students (and teachers!) are undue; many students experience intense academic pressure, high stress levels, and adverse experiences in pursuit of their learning. Whenever I talk with my students about feeling shy, anxious, or overwhelmed, I see in my students a bravery that I did not have when I was their age, a bravery that humbles me, and reminds me why I chose to work in this field. 

I first heard the term "intergenerational equity" during the years I worked in the small-scale, sustainable agricultural sector in Montreal. Intergenerational equity is concerned with economic, psychological, and sociological contexts, and is concerned with justice between generations. At its core, it involves the dynamics and interactions between children, youth, adults, elders, and our ancestors. As we learn together and from each other, we change the world together. 

At the start of my journey, I was drawn to the ways in which children's books, and children's literature, act as mediated 'spaces' where intergenerational equity happens—through the very act of sharing a story. From there, I segued into pursuing my teacher's certification in literacy education, in my commitment to empower students in their own literacy journeys. By changing dominant narratives, by rewriting the story, students can be authors and creators of their own lives, as we continue to learn alongside each other, in humility, courage, and grace, in our shared commitments to create change that is equitable and sustaining. Schools are where this learning can happen! Speaking from experience, the brilliant teachers I have had while at Shipley, including Mr. Van Steenwyk, Mr. Simpson, Dr. Pickering, Ms. Wagner, and Dr. Iozzo (among many others), have informed the person I am today. 

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.