Remember those days where you would walk into your school to find everyone wearing matching pink shirts? As you start making your way to class, you too are handed a pink shirt and bribed to wear it with a sucker. Because everyone else was wearing them and they were in fact for a good cause (and you would get a sucker), you put it on and became a clone of your peers. If this still doesn’t ring a bell, you either never had Pink Shirt Day at your school, or your experiences with that day were more positive than mine.
To begin, I am not against the Pink Shirt Day campaign in any way, in fact, I encourage you to support it. So far, it has raised over $1.2 million that goes towards anti-bullying programs! So where is my seemingly negative attitude coming from? My issues are not with the campaign itself but with how my school neglected it. When it came to Pink Shirt Day or AntiBully Day- as my schooled called it- my school never did anything special. We never had guest speakers come in, we didn’t do activities that raised awareness, we didn’t even talk about bullying. Sometimes teachers would sell pink ice cream floats at lunch and then donate the money, but when it takes an ice cream float to get a kid to give a dollar for a good cause, that isn’t what going in the right direction looks like. When AntiBully Day was done and over all our school had achieved was a good image. Behind that image was just a bunch of counterfeit activists; bullying continued to be an issue within our school that had yet to be tended to.
Another incident where social activism was not used to its fullest abilities within my school was during the boom of the Idle No More movement. In Native Studies, our teacher assigned the class to make picket signs that supported the movement. We never even fully discussed the issue. I only remember being told that Stephen Harper was a bad guy so we are going to make some signs. Once the signs were made, we hung them up in our classrom. They were not discussed or used.
Looking back on these memories, I am left wondering why some teachers backed away from social activism. Were they scared to allow students to take a stand, even when it was the right thing to do? Was it just easier to pretend that we were supporting good causes? Whatever the reason may be, this form of slacktivism did worse for us students than not doing anything at all. Today’s technology has created a world of its own where we don’t even need to leave our bed to tell the world what our opinions are. With something as simple as a hashtag we trick ourselves into thinking that we are making a difference. If all schools depicted social activism the way my school has, these coming generations won’t understand what it means (and feels like) to actually make a difference.
With hopes of learning from the past to grow as an educator, I have started researching other teacher’s resources used to bring social activism into the classroom and school. Here are just a few examples that I found from one of my new favorite sites called Teaching Tolerance:
- Students will experience discrimination and develop a sense of fairness and equity.
- Students will apply literature to real life experiences.
- Students will become empowered to take responsibility for their environment.
- explore the role of photography (and the photographer) in documenting activism
- examine different kinds of activism in photography
- analyze how photographs can be persuasive
- Understand the significance of Morgan’s speech as part of the civil rights movement
- Make the connection that modern historical events and issues are directly tied to past events
- Assess when is the right time to take action or to speak up
Like I said, these are only a few examples amongst many others on the Teaching Tolerance site. Though the site follows an American curriculum plan, the activities are perfect (or else easy to change) for students anywhere and everywhere. I love that the resources include full lesson plans and how impactful they are. Most that I have found are directly linked to social activism. I may even make a blog post specifically on this site, but for now, here are a few resources for you to take!