Master of Education in Humane Education
I am Andrea Parker. I have dedicated the last decade to educating young people in the Bay Area and beyond. I excelled in school but my real education did not begin till I reached my 30’s. It was then that I started to connect the dots of extending compassion to all beings and began to live a vegan lifestyle.
Growing up I was an active member of FFA and raised animals for the county fair. This includes two lambs and four steers. I have one memory that has stuck with me as fresh as the day I experienced it. I asked my dad if I could walk my steer to the truck to be hauled off. (This usually happens at night when the children are at home, then we all show up the next day to ride the rides with no more responsibility.) His name was Georgio, I walked him down his green mile in this halter along with some of my friends and their animals. I put him in the holding pen near the truck and slipped the halter off his head. I then walked back towards the barn swinging this empty halter. I burst into tears. Something in me knew this was wrong, but it was not till over a decade later that I would make the final connections to revive my own compassionate heart. This is something that has been hard for me to come to terms with- sending my friends to slaughter for a paycheck. Finding the compassion to extend towards my childhood self has been a healing experience.
Once I made the transition, I have found it virtually impossible to not share what I know with other people. About a year ago, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. From our conversations and the story of my neighbors mom’s experience she decided to make the change to becoming plant based. Before her diagnosis was was also prediabetic. She is nine months post operative now and all of her levels are in the normal range. Her doctors cannot understand, but they are also the same ones telling her to not eat fruit. I am proud of my mom and also amazed at how hard it is to find nutrition information that you can trust. I have seen other subtle shifts in my mom besides what she is eating and it is a wonderful thing to witness and yet hard to put into words. I wonder what others are seeing in me?
As a educator, I have had varying degrees of success at trying to introduce compassion into the classroom. I am inspired by all the activists around me and all the countless films, books, podcasts and blogs that are available these days. A true spiritual connection to our collective consciousness that is at our very fingertips. Each year it seems we are closer to lifting the veil of silence about our food choices and eliminating the non human animal suffering inherit in these choices. Sadly, we are further away from making the systemic changes necessary to alleviate the human suffering along these same food supply chains. I truly believe that peace begins on our plate and that all beings deserve to be free of suffering.
One lesson that truly impacted my 4th and 5th graders last year was the lesson around asking what humane treatment is from the Institute for Humane Education. I framed our conversation around creating a different lens through which to view the world. A viewpoint that can help our young people to make kinder choices and bring about a more peaceful world. I was amazed by the words spoken by these young people and at the depth of their compassion. Things they had never really thought about because they had never been asked to. The compassion I witnessed is an innate part of all of us that needs to be nurtured to thrive.
I have also witnessed the apathy and pushback from my older students who seem to be more set in their ways. More a part of the larger culture that is told to consume animals during our celebrations. I know kindness still exists in their hearts but it seems to be deeper down, requiring more digging to bring it out of them. Not to mention the adults in my sphere who have no idea how I can live on plants alone. People who grow up watching commercials and participate in the same traditions of their families without question. Yet here I am and no I will not be silenced. We cannot be silenced once we have realized that we are the voice for the voiceless.
For the last three years, I have been reading everything I can get my hands on and writing about my experiences to shine a light into the darkness. I have attended numerous conferences and participated in direction action. Sometimes it seems like I am an island by myself within the schools where I work. I would love an opportunity to be surrounded by like minded professionals who are on parallel paths. I want to be buoyed and strengthened in my endeavors. Most of all, I want to find the place where I can have the greatest impact and know exactly how to use my position for the benefit all of animals, human and nonhuman alike.