16 Aug Inspiring the social justice warriors of the future
As a teacher who finds herself in a great number of classrooms filled with students of varying social, political, and economic backgrounds, I witness a lot of different personalities, perspectives and opinions. I meet young people with heads and hearts filled with passion for issues like protecting the environment and combating gender stereotypes. Every student I meet is different from the one before, each with their own bubbling urge to fight for something.
But as an adult figure with a part to play in the shaping of our young students, it’s important to ask, what is the teacher’s role in inspiring the morals and values of your child? Specifically, how do we at Speak Up encourage our students to fight for what they believe in? How do we inspire them to be the social justice warriors of the future?
Allowing students to facilitate their own discussions
I’d like to start by mentioning that no, we certainly don’t preach our ideologies to our students, encouraging a mass ensemble performance where we inspire the next revolution (we save Les Mis for the rehearsals!). Instead, we leave the learning up to the individual students, and in many cases, allow the learning moments to play out naturally.
One of the best ways a child can learn more about the world is from their peers, and we focus on allowing these moments to unfold organically, with the teacher acting merely as a moderator. From witnessing students come out to their classmates, to rants about a woman’s role in society, to discussions about different religious beliefs, I’ve seen lots of beautiful, inspiring moments take place, without prompt, in my classrooms.
Times come when we do have to step in, particularly moments of hurt for another student in the room, but for the most part, students really thrive on the opportunity to learn from each other. Even if that means to dispute and disagree (it’s good to disagree sometimes). To share, to discuss without being spoken at I find is the best way our students become inspired.
Listen and Learn – Our students teach us too
Every day I seem to learn something new from one of my students. From facts about space travel, to the best brand of chocolate milk, to the negative impacts of feminine expectations on young girls in 2020.
Although our role is that of the ‘teacher’ in the drama classroom, an environment where we promote individuality, expression and confidence, I find that I probably learn just as much from them about life as they do from me about speech and drama.
Allowing my students to have a say in the class, to express their opinions and perspectives, to rant about the struggles and fears they face as young people in today’s society, allows them to realise that their feelings and perspectives are valid. Not only that, but it reminds them that somebody is always listening to them, and that more people will listen to them as well if they speak loud enough and are assertive. Sometimes for a young person, the simple act of an adult/ teacher figure listening to and respecting their opinions is enough to inspire them to take action in society.
Teach through doing
The most day-to-day way we inspire social justice warriors is through the simple process of teaching through doing. Demonstrating respect for all students in the classroom regardless of differences, celebrating individuality and engaging our classes with content that is inclusive and diverse. By being vocal and assertive in our own beliefs as a teacher, we are demonstrating how our students can do the same.
Ultimately, we don’t teach our students what to think. But we do want to teach them how to take their beliefs and put them to work in the world.
We know very well our classrooms are filled with future feminists, future advocates, future Politian’s; and its part of our job to help them flourish. The world needs more people who aren’t afraid to speak up for what they believe in.
~ Miss Grace
Find out how your child can be inspired to speak up by visiting our main site.