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Educators gathered to celebrate their work and its potential to help each teacher become an “agent of reconciliation” at the BYU Education Society conference in June. At the conference, participants attended breakout sessions and listened to keynote speakers including Judge Thomas Griffith and McKay School Dean Kendra Hall-Kenyon.
Judge Griffith shared his beginnings in education and how that framed his career. Before law school and rising to become a U.S. circuit court justice and chief legal officer of the U.S. Senate, Griffith was a teacher. In his eyes, teachers are “people who change lives the way no one outside a family can.”
Through this unique lens, Griffith shared his view on the role of people of faith in the world. He described what he considered to be an obvious problem: affective polarization, or the state of being that occurs when hatred of “the other” is stronger than a person’s love for their own tribe. The phenomenon is prevalent right now across the United States and even the world.
However, Griffith said, people think this enmity is greater than it actually is. There is a perception gap, with people on both sides believing others hold them in greater contempt than they really do.
“We are not culture warriors—we are not at war with our fellow citizens,” Griffith said.
He asked each listener to consider the role their religion plays in their interactions with others: “Are we using it to unite or divide?”
As a complex issue, Griffith said, affective polarization does not have an easy fix. However, he stressed the importance of focusing on the ideal that guided the creation of the U.S. Constitution and becoming “an agent of reconciliation,” someone who is willing to give up something important to them for the greater good.
Griffith challenged his audience to “get used to different,” and to utilize the unifying principles of the gospel in their political and personal lives.
A conference highlight included the Education Society bestowing its first teaching award on A. LeGrand Richards (Buddy), who recently retired after 37 years in education. He has served as department chair of Educational Leadership and Foundations at the McKay School, the President of the Far Western Philosophy of Education Society and as a visiting professor at the University of Würzburg. In addition, he was the original founder of what is now the BYU Education Society.To wrap up the conference, Dean Hall-Kenyon shared thoughts on nurturing potential in others and in ourselves.
Hall-Kenyon reminded those attending that “to nurture the full potential of others has a lot to do with understanding our weaknesses.” Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, she said, people can turn those weaknesses into strengths—and focusing on potential helps. Educators see the eternal potential in their students.
Growth is the goal, Hall-Kenyon said: “If you don’t raise the bar, how will you ever know your potential?” She encouraged educators to continue to challenge themselves and to encourage their students to follow that example.
She also emphasized the need for compassion for yourself and for others, urging educators to “give yourself praise,” and to remember that “we can be perfected in Him.”
Hall-Kenyon closed with three admonitions: to “seek inspiration,” to “see with eyes of faith,” and to “focus on relationships.”
“True human flourishing comes through change, through improvement, through growth, through our Savior,” she said.
Writer: Bridget Quain
Contact: Andrew Devey