An interview with Elisabetta Romano, who completed the Solutionary Micro-Credential Program (SMP) with IHE in 2022 and is now integrating the learnings into her language classes in Australia
To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your passions, and your current pursuits?
As a curious and compassionate language teacher living and working in Australia, I am dedicated to fostering critical thinking in my students. As a change-maker, I aim to enhance their understanding of the world. Simultaneously, as a mother to two inspiring girls, I am driven to nurture their talents and guide them through life. My personal and professional roles intertwine, each enriching the other. This intersection fuels my dedication to making a difference, one child at a time.
What drew you to humane education and the Solutionary Micro-credential Program (SMP)?
Progressing in my teaching career, I questioned the values of the educational system, which seemed to prioritize exams over preparing students for the future. Seeking a shift, I discovered a compelling article in the University of Technology, Sydney suggesting that the purpose of learning is species survival. This led me to question the purpose of learning in modern society. A profound discussion with my husband concluded that learning now aims at our survival amidst self-destruction and environmental harm. This reinforced my belief in education as a tool for empowering students to improve the world through academic knowledge. Upon discovering humane education, I recognized it as the answer to help me redefine my educational approach.
Can you recall a transformational experience or idea during the SMP that changed your perspective?
During my journey with the Solutionary Micro-credential Program (SMP), a transformational idea drastically shifted my perspective on education. I realized that the purpose of education is to raise solutionaries, not just exam-passers. This brought a newfound purpose to my role as an educator and resonated deeply with my core values.
One challenging yet transformative moment was recognizing a dissonance between my core values and how I was living my life. This realization prompted a significant change in my actions to ensure they align with my values as a humane educator.
Furthermore, participating in SMP led to an awakening of my public voice. While I had internal concerns about the state of the world, I was unaware of my potential to amplify my voice. Initially, I believed it was sufficient to act right in my private sphere. The SMP experience made me understand the importance of voicing my concerns publicly, transforming me from a soloist into a part of a solutionary choir.
What solutionary teaching and coaching projects are you working on now?
As a language teacher in a linguistically-focused school, integrating the elements of humane education can present a challenge. However, I see this challenge as an opportunity to innovate. While our curriculum restricts the use of the full HE protocol, I’ve found ways to instill compassion and systems thinking in my students. I’ve infused every aspect of the curriculum with a humane education twist. An example is when I taught a student verbs in Italian, merging grammar with poetry and the Aboriginal perspective. The task—to write a gratitude poem in Italian as a traditional custodian of the land—allowed for the integration of the language with broader, more humane themes.
Another instance is when we explored urban design while studying local areas in Italian. The students compared Italian and Australian cities using real photographs, which led to deep concept questions about the underlying values of different urban designs.
Regarding my work with the current SMP cohort, I find the community platform IHE is starting, Circle, a valuable medium to connect, converse, and develop my thinking with fellow educators. This interaction keeps me rooted in the humane education community and fuels my aspiration to continue introducing innovative humane educational strategies in my teaching.
How do you stay energized and motivated in this work?
Despite the challenges that come with integrating the humane education (HE) approach into a conventional educational system, I stay motivated and energized when I see the profound impact this education has on my students. It’s fulfilling to witness them grow in compassion, enhance their systems thinking skills, and connect more deeply with the world around them. I take great joy in seeing them transition from being solo thinkers into being a part of a harmonious choir seeking solutions to the world’s problems.
Encountering obstacles doesn’t dampen my spirit; instead, it invigorates me. Transforming these obstacles into opportunities, finding solutions to problems, and continuously questioning alternatives when something doesn’t work fuels my motivation. This process of persevering and creatively solving problems provides me with intellectual stimulation, and it’s these challenges that keep me energized and committed to the work of humane education.
Share something that has inspired you recently.
Recently, I was profoundly inspired by the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It poetically explores the intricate and reciprocal relationships between humans and nature, focusing on the profound interplay between botany, Native American wisdom, and Western traditions. This reminded me strongly of the intimate connection that Australian Aboriginals have with their land, a value that resonates deeply with me as a humane educator, and something I am eager to incorporate into my teachings.
Additionally, I was struck by the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma. It shed light on the intentionally addictive design of social media, which manipulates users’ perceptions, emotions, and behaviors for profit. The documentary highlights the significant effects of social media on mental health, making me question if Humane Technology should be included in the solutionary framework. It made me reflect on the role technology plays in our lives, leading to drastic changes in my own, my children’s, and my students’ use of social media.
What are your hopes for the future of education?
I hope for a future where education transcends the confines of competition and individual achievement. Instead, I envision it as a transformative force that molds learners not as mere participants in a race but as global citizens imbued with compassion, understanding, and a fervent desire to imagine and manifest a better world for all. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” It is my hope that the educational institutions of tomorrow foster this spirit of collective progress and unity.
Feel inspired? You can read more stories of humane educators in action here.