Are Teachers Supposed to be Social Activists?

Our last debate topic clearly is a tough and thorough subject to elaborate on. Mike and Jacquie and Michala and Brad had their work cut out for them with this one. I lift my hat up to them because they did a great job defending their point of view.

Mike and Jacquie started of the debate by explaining why teachers should promote social justice in their classroom. First, they explained what social justice is. They then went on by stating that students have a voice and they should use it to defend present social justice issues within their communities. They also defended Sonia Neto’s four components of social justice in education found in her paper titled, Teaching as Political Work: Learning from Courageous and Caring Teachers. Mike and Jacquie finished their opening statement by explaining that “using technology and social media to promote social justice allows students to foster problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and perseverance”. They foster that a teacher’s job is to help student learn or unlearn information to help make our society a better place to live.  

Brad and Michala took on a more relaxed and comic approach to present their arguments on why teachers should not promote social justice in their classrooms. They explained that teachers need to be impartial. It is not politically correct for them to use students to “push their personal agenda and social values”. Rather, they need to present both sides of an issue and guide students to find information that will help them make their own decisions on the matter at hand. Teachers need to promote face-to-face interactions to foster connections and collaboration between everyone in their classrooms. It is important to NOT take privilege for granted and to use social media wisely.

While strolling Twitter the other day, I came upon this tweet from Mind Shift. They shared this image explaining how teachers can become more responsive to culture in their classrooms. “EL” Stands for “English Learners” but I believe it can also relate to all learners.

Source : https://www.empoweringells.com/welcoming-environment/

With this said, for teachers to become efficient activists in the classroom, they need to be open to learning. Torrey Trust, assistant professor of learning technology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains that “highly effective teachers know that they do know everything they need to help their students, so they are constantly learning”. I also feel that it is important to add that everyone makes mistakes. When you can acknowledge that you’ve screwed up, that’s when you learn the most. Student’s will appreciate you saying your sorry for making a mistake and they will also take away from this lesson. Usually, people can be forgiving.

Being active on social media is great for teachers because it always gives them access to knowledge at low costs. Furthermore, teachers shouldn’t be neutral because they need to create equal opportunity for every child that enters their classroom. Alyssa Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University explains that “the idea of neutrality, […] doesn’t always work in schools, because “education is inherently political””. How can teachers become involved in social justice activities that surround them? This is another question we discussed during class. Some teachers fear what others (parents, coworkers, superiors) will think of them. They don’t want to attract negative backlash and create problems for their families, their students or their school community. This is where we need to surround ourselves with peers that will have our backs. I believe there will always be backlash but if someone that is struggling is impacted positively by our activism, then we have done a small part in helping change the world for the better. Kelisa Wing, in her article titled Teachers Must Hold Themselves Accountable for Dismantling Racial Opression, mentions that “we must commit to teaching in a way that totally disrupts and dismantles the system of oppression”. She adds that we will be able to achieve this by “holding ourselves individually and mutually accountable”, by “ensuring representation is at the forefront”, and by “caring about more than ourselves”. Even though it is hard work, we need to set the tone for our students. Using social media to speak out and engage in activism is a starting point to become models of change for our students. If we do not show them how to do this responsibly and in respectful yet tenacious manner, who will and how will they learn?

What are your thoughts? Should teachers use social media to be active in the chase for social justice?

One thought on “Are Teachers Supposed to be Social Activists?

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  1. Your post gave me a lot to think about. I like how you said that for teachers to become efficient activists, they need to be good listeners and learners. You also pointed out that we will make mistakes but by admitting our mistakes and using them as learning opportunities, we can grow and also model this great skill to our students. This is something I think a lot of our current leaders (in education and beyond) could do a better job of.

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