Allies and Actions
In this lesson, learners will research and evaluate both personal and community strategies for creating a more respectful, inclusive school community, and present recommendations to the school board and administration. Learners will also examine the role of language in fostering inclusion and respect.
The learner will:
- identify potential strategies to benefit specific populations of learners in the school that often feel excluded or disrespected.
- examine the impact of divisive language on the school community and identify specific words and/or phrases to eliminate from personal vocabulary.
- research and report on respect and inclusion-related initiatives implemented by learners in other schools.
- present recommended strategies for inclusion to the school board and administration.
- Flip chart paper and markers
- Computer(s) with Internet access
- Internet Resources (Attachment One)
- Survey results from Lesson Three: "Who’s In, Who’s Out?"
- ACLU Learner Rights Page http://www.aclu.org/LearnersRights/LearnersRightsMain.cfm [no longer available]
- Do Something www.dosomething.org
- GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) www.glsen.org
- Mix It Up www.mixitup.org
- The National Conference for Community and Justice www.nccj.org
- Tolerance.org www.tolerance.org
Visualization: Instruct learners to close their eyes and visualize a school community where everyone feels respected and included. "What would lunch time look like? What about the hallways between classes? How would learners treat one another? How would teachers and learners interact?" After a short time continue by saying, "Next, I want you to picture our school community. How is it different from the respectful, inclusive school community you just visualized? We are going to explore what needs to happen here to make our school more like that inclusive community."
Day One: Write the name of each of the excluded/disrespected groups that learners identified in Lesson Three: "Who’s In, Who’s Out?" on a separate piece of flip chart paper. Beneath each name write Individual and Community, leaving space between the terms for learners to write.
Students with Disabilities
Divide learners into small groups, assigning one flip chart page to each group. Instruct the groups to brainstorm things that they can do as individuals to help make the group on their flip chart paper feel more respected and included, and things that the school community could do to make them feel more respected and included (i.e., building changes, new policies, etc).
Have each group share their ideas out loud with the class, asking the other learners to add any additional ideas they might think of for each group.
Have the learners address the question of the importance, in a democracy, of including all members of the community in the daily life and happenings of the community.
Hang the flip chart papers around the room, so that each is visible to the entire class. Ask learners to look around at the ideas for Individual actions and decide on a few ideas that they are willing to make a personal commitment to implementing in their lives. In their journals, ask learners to a) write their personal commitments, b) think about and write down any challenges or difficulties they might encounter while implementing their actions; and c) leave space to record their progress/successes as they implement their plans.
Day Two: Ask learners to close their eyes and picture a "dog." Ask them to get a very detailed image in their mind. Then, have learners open their eyes and describe the dog they pictured to the person sitting next to them. Ask the class, "Why is it that I asked the entire group to picture the same thing – a dog – yet everyone had such different images in their minds? How do our personal experiences and perspectives dictate the kind of dog we pictured?"
Ask learners to share other examples of times when the same word can be interpreted differently by different people. Have learners think of words that have meanings that have changed over time, or that have different meanings in different contexts. Divide learners into pairs or triads and ask each grouping to think of ways that words can be used to help people in a community, and ways that words can be used to hurt people in a community. Ask learners to share with their partners any personal experiences of times when they have felt disrespected, excluded or offended by words.
Turn the learners’ attention back to the groups listed on the flip chart paper (from Day One). Ask the learner pairs/triads to think of specific words or phrases that have been used to disrespect or exclude members of each group. Caution learners that many of the words that are generated during this exercise may be uncomfortable or painful for individuals. This should not be a time to simply think of as many derogatory terms as possible, but rather to reflect on how certain words have been used to hurt or separate members of the community.
In their journals, ask learners to complete the following statement: "To help create a more respectful and inclusive school community, I will stop using the following words _______." Ask learners to write what actions they will take when others around them use these words. Again, have learners also predict any challenges/difficulties they might encounter and leave space for later reflection on their progress.
Day Three: Review the ideas for the school community on the flip chart papers from Day One. Tell learners that eventually they will be using these ideas to create a report on recommended strategies for their schools, but that first they will be taking a look at strategies that other learners and school systems have successfully implemented in their school communities.
Distribute Internet Resources (Attachment One). Divide learners into pairs or triads and have them search the Internet for an example of a program, project or strategy that a school or learner group has implemented to help make learners feel more respected and included. Each team should write a brief description of the strategy, the group (or groups) that the strategy attempted to help, and how successful they believe a similar strategy would be at their school. Have each team share the strategy they researched with the rest of the class.
Using the researched strategies as well as the ideas previously listed on flip chart paper, have learners identify three or four school-wide strategies to recommend to the student government or school administration. Divide into small groups and have each group work out the details for one of the recommended strategies. Groups should address:
- Data to support the need from the survey in Lesson Three
- How should the strategy be implemented?
- What is needed from staff? From administration? From learners?
- Why would this strategy be beneficial to your school?
- What population of learners would this strategy benefit?
- What will be the cost in time, talent and treasure (money)?
Observation of learner participation in discussion, learner journal entries, the report on learner strategies from the Internet and completed strategy recommendations for staff/board can be assessed.
Learners will make presentations of strategy recommendations for inclusion of all learners in the school community at board/staff meetings.
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
Benchmark HS.4 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to protect individual rights, equity, and justice.
Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
Standard VS 03. Providing Service
Benchmark HS.1 Provide a needed service.
Benchmark HS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.