With school starting across the U.S., educators have the chance to think big when it comes to civic engagement. You are at the forefront of shaping the next generations for a more equitable world, and while you may be somewhat limited in scope based on curriculum, there are ways of incorporating civic engagement and demonstrating concepts that help foster more compassionate, inclusive communities.
Work With Administrators to Address Curriculum Gaps or Resource Needs
As you teach certain principles such as equity, diversity or inclusion, and you identify areas that are lacking culturally relevant supporting materials, speak to your administrators. It might help to engage in these dialogues with a solution-oriented approach. Do some independent research to find the resources you need, then bring a proposal to your administrators.
There are nonprofits out there actively working to meet curriculum gaps and promote inclusivity in classrooms by creating resources for teachers. Take Daily Point of Light Honoree Joe English, for instance, who founded Hope in a Box. This nonprofit provides educators a curated set of books with LGBTQ characters for either middle or high school students, along with a detailed curriculum for the books, written by experienced English educators and adapted to Common Core State Standards.
Use the Impact of Storytelling to Instill Values in a Memorable Way
Educators know that teaching is not just about relaying information but using proven methods for students to comprehend and retain that information. One of the most potent ways educators can do this is through storytelling. Whether it be through personal stories that are age-appropriate and honor the boundaries of the student-teacher relationship or with illustrations of others who are impacted by the issues you’re teaching about, storytelling can resonate deeply and powerfully with young minds. Relate lessons to current events; have students examine political issues or real-time Supreme Court cases to explore their thoughts and feelings around them.
When Daily Point of Light Honoree Srishti Gowda found out that her eighth-grade English teacher was waiting for a kidney transplant, and discovered that approximately 120,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for life-saving transplants and 22 people die each day while waiting for one, she took matters into her own hands. She started by volunteering with existing organizations before founding her own to advocate for organ transplants.
Look for Opportunities in the Classroom to Demonstrate Concepts Taught
Just like storytelling can help students retain concepts, so too, can relating concepts to daily occurrences happening in the classroom. Try assigning a writing prompt that asks students to identify a need they see in the classroom or among their peers and propose a solution. Perhaps there’s an assignment for students to write anonymous notes of support or encouragement to each other. Whether it be recognizing when students share notebook paper, pencils or food with one another or demonstrating what compassionate and empathetic communication looks like in a conflict among students, you can teach lessons in a practical, relatable and hands-on way that can have a deep impact.
Daily Point of Light Honoree Wendy Wu is a piano teacher who shares her love for music with her students and runs the nonprofit she founded, IMPACT Youth Club, to foster growth, personality and empathy. During the pandemic, when most learning was happening virtually, Wendy allowed students to spot needs and help meet them. “Some kids felt isolated and frustrated during the pandemic, so one of our student volunteers created a virtual exercise class, and we also hosted online conversations for younger students,” Wendy shared.
As you prepare to teach concepts around inclusivity, empathy and civic engagement in your classroom, you can reference Points of Light’s Civic Circle, which provides nine methods for you to practice your power to lead, lend support and take action toward the issues you care about. Watch videos that cover each subject and read Civic Life Today, our free digital magazine on each element.