Blog 6 An International Network of Teachers for Future
I’m on the Ferry from Sardinia to Toulon in France. As the ship rolls gently on the waves, I watch a rainbow in the distance as the outline of Sardinia slowly disappears. Arrivederci Italia, it was wonderful to spend time with your people, enjoying your food, walking around your beautiful nature and enjoying the landscape and Mediterranean climate. But the highlight for me was connecting with Teachers for Future Italy, the Italian counterpart of Teachers for Climate the Netherlands. In thinking about what is needed in order to combat the climate and ecological crises that we are in; one thing is clear to me, whatever we do, we will need to collaborate. Therefore my goal this year is to establish an international network of educators who are passionate about making the world more sustainable through education. This endeavour really got wings by meeting up with Marco De Bernardo and other colleagues from Teachers for Future Italy.
The origin of Teachers for Future
Around the time of the first climate strikes, in a process of co-evolution, all around the world, groups of teachers wishing to support their striking students, united nationally. These teachers called themselves Teachers for Future (TFF), or in the Dutch case; Teachers for Climate. Our groups developed along the same lines, I learned talking to teachers from TFF Austria and Italy. We all started from joining the climate strikes with our students, and organizing efforts together with them to make our schools more sustainable. Later we realized the climate crisis demands more of us as teachers. Namely our education system itself is not teaching towards a sustainable future, but often reflects a fossil past. Therefore schools are not part of the solution, but instead help maintain the status quo. For our schools to be a driver of a sustainable transformation a system change in education is necessary. To systematically integrate education for sustainability on a school and national level, became another aim of Teachers for Future groups.
An international network of Teachers for Future
Sometimes all you need is people to team up with in order to start. This is definitely the case for me, and of course essential when you want to build an international network. That is why this text responding to my Facebook post made me so happy: “Welcome to Italy Wieneke, my name is Marco and I am a member of Teachers for Future Italy, it would be great to meet you.” From here things happened very quickly. A Whatsapp group of Education for Future was formed that within weeks counted over 50 participants from various countries. In the group thoughts, articles, and initiatives were shared. We were able to meet up a couple of times face to face as well as online to make plans for an international network of Teachers for Future. The goal here; to learn from each other, share experiences, ideas and resources. And ultimately to change the education system and systematically integrate sustainability, in all levels and all aspects of education. Concrete initiatives are; a series of seminars for teachers on climate psychology and how to support our students in navigating the emotional aspects of the climate crisis, as well as collective action during the Global Climate Strike on the 3d of March.
A shared goal: Climate Education for all
My wish for Teachers for Future International is to be the driver of a European improvement of education. Research by the Potsdam Institute (Otto et. Al 2020) shows that climate education can contribute to an acceleration in the transformation of our society to a sustainable one. “The European Education Area Communication”, “the European Green Deal” and other key initiatives recognize the crucial role that education can play in this transformation. Although individual teachers are already actively putting sustainability and climate education into practice, there is also a need for collective, systematic integration. “Action is needed vertically, individual to institution to systems level, and also horizontally, meaning all stakeholders in education and training need to work together in synergy to ensure that sustainability is anchored firmly in the entire student learning experience”. The European Commission states this in the “Proposal for a council recommendation on learning for environmental sustainability”. For this to happen, the European Commission will need teachers, for who else will put these policies into practice? By working together, sharing ideas and inspiring each other we can accelerate this transformation. For example, in the Italian state curriculum climate education is mandatory, in all levels, as part of a new subject: Civics. I love this, and I think we can all learn from how it is working out in practice. Let’s work together in making education the driving force for a sustainable world, because perhaps the most important skills we need to combat climate change are collaboration and compassion.
Otto IM, Donges JF, Cremades R, Bhowmik A, Hewitt RJ, Lucht W, Rockström J, Allerberger F, McCaffrey M, Doe SSP, Lenferna A, Morán N, van Vuuren DP, Schellnhuber HJ. Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2020; 117(5): 2354-2365. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1900577117.