We can all agree as educators and teachers, social issues are an ‘issue’ within itself, outside and inside the classrooms. How do we even start to have that dialogue with our close family and friends, much less with the impressionable students we teach from day to day?
It’s a difficult yet necessary topic of discussion that must take center stage after such a tragic year filled with consistent life changes and health scares faced across the globe. How our nation treats its citizens and how we treat one another matters most and helps set the tone for how we’ll survive the remnants of this global pandemic and stay both safe and respectful of one another in the future. Social issues within our country spread throughout our local communities and take root in our classrooms, which is why social issues in education is a topic worth discussing.
Why Teach Social Change in the Classroom?
A blog piece by The Teacher’s Academy sums it best, “As teachers, we have the ability to do so much more than relay facts to our students, we can teach them how to think, and, in turn, how to become thoughtful, contributing citizens. One of the best ways we can do that is to bring issues of social justice into our classroom. Dealing with problems of equality and fairness helps give students valuable experience in critical thinking, research, and respectful, meaningful conflict.”
We owe it to our students today to teach them social issues by discussing both the wins and losses we face in our community and nation as a whole, when it comes to social issues and necessary social change.
Reminisce for a moment to when you were a child and think back to the days when you first learned the importance of community, or why it was even important to practice the golden rule with others around you. Consider the moment you watched the local news with your parents, and although you couldn’t understand the rhetoric, you knew what was on the screen must be important to grasp your parent’s attention for so long and have the room go dead silent as they seem trapped in a gaze with the local news stories and community headlines. Our world and how we observe and perceive it all start in our younger years. Yes, it includes experiences within our family homes, but there’s a huge role played behind our school classroom doors as well.
The classroom is an environment that demands our youth’s attention, for educational purposes and the realities of their world and community. We work to set the foundation where our children learn and understand the root of social problems. What better way to have that dialogue than within our classroom environments? The trust is there, and the attention is commanded in the classrooms—it’s now our turn to have our teachers and educators start the conversation and design a framework for social change together.
How We Can Incorporate Social Issues into Education
Design for Change USA has taken the first step in the process to teach about social issues with its 12-minute Empathy Warmup Podcasts. The podcasts introduce the social conversations in a way that our students can learn to build empathy and create social change using four steps: Feel, Imagine, Do, Share. After listening to one of our social cause podcasts, students are guided through a series of activities that they can do independently and with their educator by themselves and with their teacher.
The topics of each short podcast vary and cover an array of timely and relevant issues we all experience in some capacity from day to day. Topics range from the recent onset of the COVID pandemic to the rapidly and sometimes tragic outcome of young children and cyberbullying. We all have seen the constant change within our communities and society, particularly within the past year. We have been forced to have a tough and difficult conversation about a global pandemic that’s placed all of us and our families into a ‘new normal’ that we continue to unravel every day. Our communication and way of educating our students have changed with the onset of the pandemic as virtual learning took set in early 2020. How do our students adapt to such quick and unapologetic change? How do we even begin to explain how a health-related virus could impact their everyday behavior and wellbeing? They are difficult conversations that we must create and start together.
We want our students to become active in their local communities and become advocates of social change. That vision starts with us as their educators and teachers. Let’s bring the social issues to the classrooms and voice the importance of student’s understanding and active participation. As the notable saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child,” however, it also takes a community of social advocates to build safe communities.
If you are interested in building a unique experience for students, you can start by selecting from the library of free social cause podcasts. Students build empathy around the selected topic by listening to the short podcast. Through this virtual platform, students will learn about a social issue, brainstorm solutions, plan and execute a change project.
We also encourage you to share this wealth of knowledge with your colleagues and faculty members who may find it helpful in their classroom environments. Let’s all start today and commit to teaching our students about social issues with the 12-minute Empathy Warmup Podcasts. We want to stay on this journey with you from beginning to end, that’s why we also encourage you to sign up today for a free account to access resources in the future for your students to continue to take action in their communities.