Teachers Are the Change the World Needs But The System Has to Allow Them to Be
Three Ways for Educators to Facilitate Healthy Dialogue Going Forward
By Samuel Wright Jr., RTI Coordinator in Vienna, Georgia
“There has developed in this country an entire class of captive leaders in the black communities. These people are college educated, articulate, and in daily contact with the young minds of the black south. For the most part, they are not sources of positive or aggressive community leadership.” — Kwame Ture
What the world needs now more than anything is honest and engaging conversations amongst all ages and sexes. What our children need now are brave, informed, and empowered adults who can help them understand the complexities of an ever-growing and developing society, one that contains the vital advancements because of technology, but that still keeps the ills and poisons of social inequity.
Our children need us to educate them wholly, not superficially. The growing and unending conversations about standards are not important now as we struggle to devise plans to accommodate a global health pandemic. The evolving population and social shifts are here now and our schools will reflect that.
There will be more students from marginalized communities and backgrounds than ever, and more students in need of professionals who are in tune with their ever-changing mental and physical needs.
For those who educate youth for a living, the media news cycles coverage of health scares and police brutality have caused a chasm as we find ourselves unable to ignore the impact such events will indelibly leave on our students and children. The world as we know it has changed and with it so must we. But how do we do that?
Meet Them In The Middle
Many of the students we teach come from backgrounds that rival our own whether it be from a socio-economic, racial, or religious lens. That does not have to stop us from establishing a relationship with them and “meeting them in the middle” so to speak.
One of the first ways to do so is by actively paying attention to what your students spend the bulk of their time saying and watching. What venues are they using to communicate? A random search of the most popular videos on Tik Tok or YouTube does wonders. For Generation Z students like ours, YouTube personalities are everything to them, much in the way podcasters and news anchors are for older generations.
Find out what their interests are. Find out who is holding their interests and find out what they are using to reach them.
Establish a Bridge
For all the things that divide us, there is equally a connecting statement, example, or analogy that can teach and build relationships. COVID-19 meets Spanish Flu 18. Only you as a teacher have the ability to combine content, knowledge, and pedagogy together to bring the material to life. In the days that are to come, we will need to work harder to engage our students and increase their emotional and intellectual bandwidth for conversations such as these.
Go Where Few Have Been
As educators, we all have levels of comfort we operate from and, at one point in time, it was understandable for us to remain there on the periphery. But now, this model no longer is acceptable.
Properly educating the youth will require us to go where few have been.
This can mean small changes from introducing socially relevant material into the classroom incrementally to requiring students to report on current events in their world weekly. On a larger scale, it can mean high schools facilitating town hall meetings, collaborating with student government officials, and advocating for changes to the current curriculums.
Ultimately, we have a platform and an ability to speak directly to our nation’s most precious commodity. We should not continue going forward as if the previous model of education was sufficient. We must be brave and innovative. Let’s start by informing ourselves.
Samuel Wright Jr is the RTI Coordinator for Dooly County School System in Vienna, Georgia. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, he received his undergraduate degree from Fort Valley State University and then later his Masters in History.When he isn’t at work, Samuel enjoys spending time with his family, writing, and exercising. An avid fan of the arts, he enjoys learning more about historical events involving music, art, photography and sports.
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To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.
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