After spending first quarter exploring systemic racism and its impact on recent days and events, students have now been challenged to choose a relevant issue they find to be unfair or unjust and to work for positive change. The end goal is not just to learn more about the topic of choice but to DO something about it. This requires digging. Digging to learn more about why and how certain things came to be, who is responsible for making change, and who or what might be intentionally or unintentionally standing in the way of progress.
Each student or group of students have chosen a topic that is meaningful to them. They began by looking at their broad vision: what the world would look like if they accomplished everything they set out to do. They scaled back on that vision and determined the main goal they had in place for themselves for this quarter. They scaled back even more to divide that main goal into reasonable short-term goals. And for the past several weeks, groups have been making progress toward each of those short-term goals with the hopes of activating real change.
Here are some examples of student topics:
- Lowering gun violence
- Eliminating the use of racial slurs
- Offering gender-neutral bathrooms in our school
- Eliminating the Pledge of Allegiance in our school
- Creating a more equitable dress code in our school
- Eliminating the gender wage gap
- Decreasing youth hunger
- Eliminating stigmas surrounding mental health
Activism is about fighting for the greater good, working to ensure equity for all groups of people. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, especially for young minds. Another challenge is the limiting belief that a middle school student cannot possibly accomplish some of the large-scale ideas they have chosen to tackle. My goal, as their teacher, is to make sure every one of my students leaves my classroom knowing they are capable of challenging any obstacle that comes their way. With enough time, energy, and thoughtful effort, they can at least stand their ground. I do not expect success every time, but they either succeed or they learn. Either outcome is a win in my book.