Taking Informed Action, Part 4 of 4

Foreword by Sonia Mathew, Civic Learning Manager

Over 225 attendees participated in the Democracy Schools Network Convening which took place March 8-9th in Naperville, Illinois with the theme “Informed Action for Equity”. This year, we recognized and celebrated 13 new Democracy Schools that joined the network. The Network now encompasses 67 high schools with representation in Chicago, its surrounding suburbs, the Metro East region outside of St. Louis, and both Central and Southern Illinois.

Network members and civic learning partners presented many workshops related to our theme. Pleases enjoy reading reflections from DSN members on various breakout sessions from the convening. These reflections focus on fostering civil discourse and strengthening student voice.

Upstanding: What it Takes to Choose to Participate

Tracy Freeman, Social Studies teacher/chair, Normal West High School, Democracy Schools Network Advisory Council member

Practicing what he preached Wayde Grinstead had those who attended his Facing History session engaged! At the March 9th convening, Mr. Grinstead, Program Associate, from Facing History and Ourselves presented “Upstanding: What it Takes to Choose to Participate.” During the session he spoke about and demonstrated proven practices that that allow teachers to engage their students in discussions. The session engaged the participants in many of the literacy and SEL strategies available on the Facing History web site.

In groups the participants discussed the knowledge, skills and dispositions students need to be an “upstander” with civil discourse, Mr. Grinstead had the participants utilizing key skills to engage entire classes. In one exercise participants applied the seven rules of having a civil and productive disagreement. After reading historical articles, a dialogue that was hard to stop ensued! All materials were sharing from historical situations and are available on the web site.

Participants left this session with materials in hand and experience using the skills needed to foster civil discourse in their classrooms.

Wayde Grinstead led an exciting session encouraging his participants to support students to take informed action.

Resources

Facing History's Educator Resources


Taking Informed Action: Implementing Changes Outside the Classroom

Student reflection from: Keyana Allen, Junior, Lindblom Math Science Academy

Berto Aguayo, a community organizer at the Resurrection Project, led a student session entitled “Taking Informed Action” at this year’s Democracy Schools Network convening that took place on March 9th. Students learned about the importance of using their voices to implement change in their communities and schools through leadership training.

We discussed the importance of organizing and the impact it could have on our future and inside our schools. To understand what organizing does, we first had to understand why we organize and how we could use our voices as youth to establish a sense of power and promote change when organizing. Aguayo asked each of us those questions and got the same answer from everyone, “We Organize to Promote Change.” Another student responded that to promote change, we have to speak up and find those with the same passion as us and establish a relationship. This automatically made me think about our schools and how to truly change the issues that the students, teachers and administration face, we all should come together and tackle it together. It takes all three for a school to function and none can solve the issue alone.

When I shared this, many agreed, and I was surprised by how many students had the same mindset. I believe this sparked something because right after we broke off into partners and found someone who shared the same concerns we have for our community and school. Students who attended schools over five hours apart connected with each other. It was so inspiring to see so many students connect so quickly and discuss how they could implement change sharing personal stories and establishing a relationship with one another. The passion those students had for their community and school was unbelievable. They were bringing up issues that principals wouldn't even think students knew about and trying to figure out ways to solve them. I believe that Berto Aguayo brought out a leader in every student in that room and would truly love to see what it takes to get students at my school to continue to develop as leaders.

Read part 3 of this series

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