CSTA Classroom Science

Empower

It’s been a difficult few weeks as we watch and hear the news of yet another school shooting. This tragedy has had a profound impact on myself and many of my teacher colleagues. So much so, that I feel I’d be remiss not to take this moment to reflect. Watching my Facebook feed recently has been astonishing – I’ve never seen so many teachers so MAD.

This is not the first time we have been mad in response to a school shooting. Once we got over the shock, we were mad after Columbine. After the profound sadness, we were mad after Newtown. I’m utterly speechless realizing these are just two out of probably more than 200 incidents over the last two decades.

During my time as a classroom teacher, I always saw my role as teaching kids not just my subject; so years ago I leaped at the chance to be a faculty sponsor for Rachel’s Challenge at my school site. Engaging kids in raw conversations and supporting them in action intended to change the culture of our school was a very profound and important part of my job. It was also really hard. I’ll admit, it was easy to get the kids on board and harder to get all of the adults. It took time, it took money, and it took will; it took each of us serving as a role model every single day.

Many schools have similar programs. Additionally, many schools implement procedures to prepare for tragedy and have systems in place to support struggling youth. Parents and teachers raise their voices. For better or worse, effective practice or not-so-effective practice, we’ve been trying. Through it all, has the narrative changed? Maybe a little. It seems where adults may have been unsuccessful, the young men and women of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have forged a way forward, surprising many along the way.

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Revolution indeed, we’ve been waiting for your leadership.

You are a testament to the strength of empowered youth. We, your teachers, have witnessed too many moments where you were disenfranchised, talked down to, ostracized, and underestimated. Even if it wasn’t overtly apparent, we’ve been by your side for years, encouraging you, challenging you, lifting you up.

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We have always known you matter. We have encouraged you to move outside your comfort zone. We expected you to become independent; a thinker. We valued your opinions and demanded you argue from evidence. We’ve been slowly building you up so you could see your worth.

And here you are. You have found your voice. You will change this world.

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Never underestimate the strength of empowered youth.

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It’s not an easy road. Yes, we teachers have nightmares too and are sometimes afraid to go to school. But we get up each morning and head to school because we know that we count on each other. We are our best when we work as a community and when we stand together. There’s something to be said for the love of a parent, but we too will be your fiercest advocates. There’s a reason why so many of us don’t refer to you as “my students,” but rather, “my kids.”

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To my science education colleagues, this is the strength of empowered students. Students rising up to something bigger than themselves. Students who recognize the value of something that affects their lives will always exceed expectation. We are witnessing the power in helping students find relevance in their education, of fostering their ability to engage beyond the simple known aspects of the content we teach. Your calling goes far beyond science. Your calling is to empower the next generation who will accomplish things far greater than we can even imagine.

To all of the students who dare to be empowered – continue to rise. My heart is with you. To those of you who each and every day empower youth, I applaud you.

The strength of these students has inspired several California Teachers’ of the Year to also speak out and add their voices to this national outcry against gun violence in schools.


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Jill Grace

Written by Jill Grace


Jill Grace is a Regional Director at the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd and President of CSTA (2017-2019).

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