A mindmap for Za’atari’s future learning spaces

I found it useful to use a mind map to highlight areas that need to be considered and addressed whilst developing useful and meaningful learning spaces which respond to the educational and developmental needs of the children in Za’atari.

Mind Map


A moment to reflect

For the last few months I have been fortunate enough to be involved with a group of enthusiastic educators whilst researching the place and contribution of learning spaces in education.

The research and learning that has taken place could not have been possible without the collective input of my peers. They have provided me with ideas, solutions, and motivation when at times I felt challenged. I can also wholeheartedly say that without the guidance, support and facilitation of one particular member and leader (thank you Adam Staples) none of this would have been possible.

Our research over the course of the last 4 weeks specifically has focussed on a topic that is not easy to digest – the Syrian refugee crisis. At many times, I found myself questioning the lack of humanity that people are capable of, and wondering what on earth I could do to make any improvements for such an enormous problem.

However, out of this I have come to develop a new sense of gratitude and inspiration. Gratitude for all of the unearned privileges I have been reminded that I have each and every day. But also extremely grateful to know that my children are going to be fortunate enough to be educated by the types of teachers I have come to know within this research group. The group of peers I have worked alongside are inspired, committed and passionate educators. They have approached each and every aspect of our research with determination and perseverance. They have inspired me with their ability to to create holistically-sound programs to meet each child’s educational and developmental needs.

As this experience together comes to a formal end, I am thankful for the changes they have afforded me, for I have a new outlook and perception of just what I can strive to achieve for myself and my students. And I am proud to know that the future of education within Australia (and beyond?) will be influenced by them.

Happy teaching.

teacher quote



I am an educator. My hope for the children of Za’atari.

What can I do for a child

with innocence lost

whose young eyes have seen things they should not?


What can I do for a child

watching with a guarded stare

whose life has been changed, seemingly beyond repair?


What can I do for a child

filled with anger and fear

who no longer believes in dreams once held dear?


What can I do for a child

whose despair is shared by the faces they see

who begins to forget the child once filled with curiosity?


I am an educator

I strive to open minds and touch hearts

but we must transform these spaces so we can all take part.


I am an educator

I promise to show patience, kindness and empathy

in an effort to remind you that you are important to me.


I am an educator

I will offer you a safe space to learn and grow

where you can remember how to dream and strive for more.


I am an educator

I will encourage you to reflect and explore

so that you, too, can stretch beyond these limits that should not be your ‘norm’.


I am an educator

I will be here for you every step of the way

and we will work together for you to find hope again one day.



By Kayri Shanahan


A mission statement for Za’atari’s future learning spaces

I have recently been spending some time trying to gather my thoughts to create a relevant mission statement of what I would hope to achieve by implementing future learning spaces within the Za’atari refugee camp.

Although the process of researching Za’atari as an educational context has been upsetting, disturbing and many times overwhelming, it is also relevant and vitally important that I know. My new knowledge now empowers me to contribute to the urgent changes that are needed, whether that be by becoming directly involved myself or by ensuring my students are educated to become informed, global citizens. Or, ideally, both.

I urge you to consider doing the same.


(Mandela, 2003).

Happy teaching.

My Mission Statement (link to page)


A parent’s poem to their child

Hush, little one
Rest back to sleep
Your family is here to keep you safe
Just where we should be

Hush, little one
I know you’re not feeling well
Have some of your medicine
It will work quickly to stop you feeling ill

Hush, little one
I know you were afraid
But it was only a bad dream
Here you will always be safe

Hush, little one
I know that school can be hard
Your teachers are there to help you
When you need them, there they are

Ssshhh, precious child
I know you’ve seen too much
I wish I could erase your memories
And bring you peace with my gentle touch

Ssshhh, precious child
I know your little body hurts
I would give my soul in a heartbeat
To heal the wounds you didn’t deserve

Ssshhh, precious child
I know you long to learn, grow and play
One day there will be more than this for you
I just hope that it doesn’t come too late

Ssshhh, precious child
You don’t deserve this life
I had such big dreams for you
I shall try my hardest to keep them burning bright

by Kayri Shanahan



Thankful, fortunate and lucky. But not blessed.

As I sit safely in my home today I have the “first-world” luxury of being annoyed by an all-day, planned power outage. I have a lot to do, day-in, day-out, and most of it relies on being able to use electricity whenever I need to.

However, maybe the timing of this is in fact ironically perfect. As I race to complete work projects which are fast approaching their deadlines (mere days away), I am struck by the realisation that this disturbance to my comfortable reality is perhaps better served to remind me of how much I (and many others) blindly take for granted every day.

I will have power by the end of the day. I have alternatives to stay up-to-date in the meantime. Had I needed electricity today for live-saving purposes in my home, that could have been arranged. I am secure in the knowledge that my home, my family and my friends are not under threat. So much so that it is hard to imagine the horrors of the civil war experienced by millions of Syrian refugees ever being possible at such a scale here in Australia. And, for that I am extremely thankful.

But I am not “blessed”, for I did nothing to deserve this good fortune, just as many millions of good, decent people did nothing to bring about their pain, suffering and loss. I am purely lucky that I was born where I was, when I was and into the family I was. And the same applies for many more people worldwide. That is not to say that we, too, are not good, decent people. Nor is it suggesting that those same people don’t deserve to be “blessed” for anything. Instead, I think some people are hasty in thanking their good fortunes on the notion of divine intervention without considering that this then appears to equate to others’ misfortunes somehow being caused by them.

The Syrian refugees now total over 4 million people. Some have resettled, many are trying to, and most are living hour-by-hour, day-by-day waiting for something to change and improve. And while they wait, they are forced to create makeshift existences where they can try to survive.

So, as I sit in silence today with a slight frustration to my usual first-world existence, I am taking a moment to remember that this disruption is a reminder of how lucky so many of us are, and of our obligation not to forget that this is not the existence that so many others have to call their “life”.