A group of people sitting together in a circle and having a discussion in Aga Khan Centre classroom

A group of student teacher trainees sitting together and discussing the opportunities and challenges on teaching

Often when we think of building bridges across different cultures and religions, we may imagine treaties between governments or summits among communities. Such bridges can be built in other ways, and on the 27th of September, such an interaction occurred over a cup of tea at the Aga Khan Centre! 

Student Teachers from the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS) attended an interactive, collaborative event with their counterparts in the Institute of Ismaili Studies Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP).  A beautiful exchange of knowledge and skills took place between these two communities.

Facilitated by Faheem Hussain, a teaching and learning educator at IIS, and in collaboration with Rabbi Danny Baigel (Secondary Programmes Manager and Jewish Career Pathways Director), this event provided a space for religious education teachers from both institutions to discuss values, opportunities, challenges, and rewarding experiences that come with teaching young people today.

The students were excited to share their expertise and listen to diverse interpretations and understandings of certain classroom occurrences. Within a short amount of time, a harmonious and thrilling environment was created in which students could connect on shared experiences and brainstorm the methodologies and pedagogies used in religious education today. As the teachers of tomorrow, STEP students strive to broaden horizons and challenge youth to seek to build relationships with surrounding communities. Such occasions where we can engage in pluralism in action are always cause for celebration and excitement!

Having had the opportunity to participate in this event, I felt extremely humbled and honored to have engaged with such a wonderful group of individuals! Speaking with Rabbi Danny Baigel was an eye-opening experience, allowing us to learn more about Judaism, and how various traditions exist within the Jewish communities of the world. Often, a point of similarity rested within our shared ethical values and principles of fairness, diversity, justice, pluralism, and most of all — the pursuit of knowledge.

As students of education and educators ourselves, this was the most exciting aspect of the session.

A candid photo of a girl dressed in blue shirt sitting and painting a picture

The sharing of these morals manifests a certain level of unity in our endeavors to empower and motivate the young individuals of the future.

Our discussions with fellow student-teachers were inspiring and thought-provoking. It was reassuring to find that the challenges we face as teachers of religious education are not unique, and something we can work on together. The STEP and LSJS teachers radiated with enthusiasm and dedication in discussing various strategies for student engagement and facilitating passionate discussions regarding encouraging and motivating students.

The opportunity for two communities of future educators to come together to learn about each other, grow their knowledge, and further the development of their goals for a brighter future for the youth of our communities showcases an exemplary dedication to pluralism in action.

-Zaina Zindani, STEP Cohort 15.