Politics, Activism, and Teaching? Oh My!

Photo CC Oliver McCloud

This module was very interesting. First of all, I did not get into teaching to be political. I think there are two things that should never be discussed: religion and politics. I don’t think teachers should take a stance on religious or political issues. However, teachers are people too and have freedom of choice and thought. So…Maybe this thinking is “wrong”. People are very judgmental and they only listen to respond. They don’t listen to hear. Every time I have been involved in political issues, I feel like I am being persuaded to think the way that person does. Since I have been in school, political issues have been on the back burner. Maybe this is “wrong” however, I don’t have time to find accurate and credible sources in order to form an opinion and then have relevant and truthful points to bring up.

That being said, the article by Ross Brenneman really made me stop and think. He said, “Curriculum is political. Standards are political. Testing is political. Funding is political. Education is political. Can teachers not be?

Good point…and true.

So I wonder, how can/do teachers keep their individuality? How do they hold to and express their beliefs?

In this article, there was an interesting point brought up by a teacher. She said that teachers get passed down mandates and are expected to put into place these policies. Like, teachers don’t have a say. Teachers are concerned with teaching however, after reading this article, I believe it is important that teachers are informed especially if it will affect their students. Teachers are on the forefront, they are in the classrooms, they can provide current, accurate, and important information.

Brenneman characterized most teachers as, “the kind of head-down, nose-to-the-grindstone type, apathetic toward politics or wary of making waves”. This is how I feel whenever I am engaged in a conversation about politics. One teacher said, “[Many teachers] didn’t get into teaching to be political in any way…And many don’t need to be…but there should be a place for teacher voice at the table.” I do agree with this especially after doing some research this week. Again, it is because teachers are in the classrooms every day.

Part of my philosophy of education, is to encourage every voice to be heard. In a sense, this is what this article is asking of me. It is asking me to be informed, to gain some knowledge so that I can have a voice to bring to the table. Not because I want to be a politician, because I want my students to be successful in whatever they choose to do. My passion is to be a teacher. I want all my students to be successful. Knowing the issues and using my voice can be beneficial.

As far as teen activism goes. I am still on the fence about this. Maybe it is because I live in a small town and maybe it is because I am from a different generation. I just don’t see a lot of teen activism anywhere that I am looking. I see a lot of selfies and “poor me” messages.

Because of this class in particular, I can see the truth in this statement:  “We’ve entered into the age of digital activism, where grassroots movements are created through tweets, reblogs, likes, and status updates.” It is through becoming familiar with Twitter and blogging that I can see how this could be true. This quote also resonated with me, “Every night before you go to sleep, ask yourself, ‘What did I do today to try and make this world a better place?’ (Maryam al-Khawaja). Sometimes it really is as simple—and powerful—as sending a tweet.” This is an excellent question for humanity to ask themselves and, because of this class, I do believe it could be as simple (yet powerful) as sending a tweet. I have read some thoughtful and thought provoking tweets from people in my PLN. Things I would have never thought of had I not been in this class and been required to get a Twitter account.

The only reason I believe digital activism can be effective is, because of the research of the teen nominees. I skimmed through them all and for some reason the Free and Above nominee stuck out to me. Their mission is to use “social media to bring people together. Reach out to ones who think they’re alone. Making sure no one ever feels like they’re not loved or that they’re a freak. Everyone’s story is important. Everyone is beautifully created. Everyone should have a someone who believes in them. This is what we do”.

This touched my heart. You have to have been living under a rock to not know that many kids are being bullied these days. These students are trying to prevent this from happening. It is truly inspiring. I hope to be that “someone” to my students. I want them to know they are important and that they matter. That they are all “beautifully created”. I want them to know I believe in them.

I also related to some of the stories on their website. Especially this part, “I am not at war with my body. I am not at war with myself. No, today I am at war with the voice in my head that tells me I am not enough,  that I am too much, that I can’t do anything right, and that I am a failure at everything I try. I am at war with the voice that has held me captive and led me to hate my body that I live in and the girl who lives in it”. Sadly, I think there are so many kids that feel this way. I’m sure I will have some in my future classroom. I can’t believe they will all want to be honest with me. Maybe none of them will. I hope that some of them will though. What a sad place to be. I have been there.

I was reminded of the sincere compliment video that George Couros talks about.

What surprised me the most was that, “signing an e-petition, donating online, changing your Facebook status message or avatar image to promote a cause, emailing your Congressman”, are examples of  taking action digitally.

I have not participated in any of those things. However, I did choose to follow Above ED. That is a start.

I just wonder, if we are honest about our views and our beliefs, won’t we be criticized? I guess to some we will and if it is meant to be the way is always found. Plus, I don’t want to compromise my beliefs and who I am for a job or another person.

Bill Ferriter reminds us that, “the kids sitting in your classroom, whether they are six or sixteen, don’t have to sit on life’s sidelines waiting until they grow up in order to make a difference in the world around them. Instead they can be agents of change today”.  Do you want to know more about being an agent of change? Bud Hunt knows!

Ferriter has a quote from digital thought leader Marc Prensky. Prensky says, “Technology gives kids power that people their age have never had. Let’s help them use it wisely”. It is true. I can help them by helping myself. One more thing, teachers are being encouraged to teach their students to “reach beyond the classroom”. Allowing them to have a voice and their own opinions is a great way to do this!

References and Quick Links!

Education Is Political. Can Teachers Afford Not to Be? 

The New Face of Teen Activism

Teen Nominees

Free and Above Website 

One Personal Story

The 6 Activist Functions of Digital Tech 

My kids, a cause and our classroom blog

Sincere Compliment Video:

Maryam al-Khawaja

Above ED on Twitter


2 thoughts on “Politics, Activism, and Teaching? Oh My!

  1. I too believe that teacher should stay away from teaching politics (their political beliefs) because of how much influence they can have over the ones they teach and political beliefs should be something that someone learns on their own.


    1. Seth,
      Yes I do agree, it is not my job to “sway” anyone (especially a young and impressionable mind) in a direction. I do have the responsibility to encourage them to seek out information and form their own opinions. To think for themselves.
      Thank you for your comments!


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