At our district’s recent Ed Tech Success Initiative, we asked teachers the question, “Why did you even go into teaching in the first place?” and the first answer was, as it so often is, “To make a difference.”
Curran Dee, Chief Kid Officer of DigCitKids, often quotes President Obama’s question, “How are you using technology every day to make a real difference for your community, other kids, and the world?” A classmate recently posted on our discussion board that he’ll be encouraging his students to use the makerspace at his school to really make a difference for the community this year. Another student friend of mine, Olivia van Ledtje, makes a difference by routinely spreading words of hope and encouragement.
Like Curran, my classmate, and Olivia, those of us in the positive digital citizenship movement also want to make a difference. We want the social media world to be different – far less fraught with ugly, demeaning words and more filled with positive words of love and hope. We seek to empower students and others to embrace their potential for doing good in the world.
And what a noble – yet at times seemingly impossible – task that is. I wake up every morning these days discouraged by the news and the divisive and rancorous tone that exists on social media and in the world. It’s probably not surprising that so many people live in a “filter bubble” where they just keep reading the things they already believe in; it’s difficult to hear those loud voices on the other side. I long for a more civilized and peaceful world where everyone’s voice is respectful – and heard. And where hateful voices and opinions are not just silenced, but those hateful hearts are truly changed through dialog and love.
No one knows what will become of our country and the current civil unrest. There is no politician or pastor who can fix this mess for us. WE are the ones who need to get out there and MAKE A DIFFERENCE. We need to be louder and more explicit than ever in teaching our students to accept others and to listen carefully to opposing points of view. We need to be louder than ever in teaching our students to resist evil in all its forms and to speak up when they see oppression. We need to be as loud as we can possibly be in modeling what it looks like to love and care for others. And we need to be explicit in telling kids that if they think it is okay to view themselves or the group or culture that they come from as better or more worthy or more valuable than any other group, that is not only wrong but immoral.
This is a time when I wish I had better words. I wish I were more eloquent and more powerful in my ability to say what I mean. But I hope you are hearing me anyway, dear teachers, because you are on the front lines out there, and you are the people who can help turn our wonderful, imperfect, divided, beautiful country around. Do it, I beg you; do all the good you can. Make a real difference this year.
Faithfully yours in cockeyed optimism,
P.S. Please see this post from the International Literacy Association on ideas to address the recent events in Charlottesville.