Dealing with resistance

We have one more week to finish our Social Action projects in English 9. We've examined song lyrics for societal issues, listened to 14 local activists talk about change they've made in the community, students have interviewed and written about a community member working hard to make positive change, we've studied the Civil Rights Movement and examined Dr. MLK Jr's four steps for non-violent direct action from his text Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and now students are working on their own change projects. Students were instructed to tap into their passions, find a need in the community, and then do something about it. Not only do they have to take action, but they have to gather research about the issue to prove their project is legitimate, compile a vocabulary journal of words learned along the way, and then compile this all into a presentation of some sort to chronicle their journey and show at our English 9 Project Night on February 20th. They've composed professional business letters inviting people to attend our project night---so now they simply have to finish up their projects.

All week I've been meeting with students, helping them brainstorm, problem-solve, and plan. It's been exhausting for a few reasons. First--more students than usual still don't have project topics or ideas. However, this doesn't surprise me. This year has been a challenging year due to the group of students I have. I have several high-needs students who come to my class with lots of baggage. For a few, attendance is sometimes poor. It's been tedious work to inspire these kids to do this project, and I've had to get very creative (many of these students haven't completed too many assignments for my class or their other classes this year). Secondly, I've met resistance from a few colleagues regarding this project. Of course this resistance has never been directed to me, but has instead come in the form of snarky comments, eye rolls, and shoulder shrugs towards the kids' projects. I feel like apathy is the worst form of resistance because I just don't know how to address it. Yesterday I reached a breaking point when I found out another teacher in my building posted a rude comment on someone's Facebook regarding the legitimacy of this unit (just another reason why my life is Facebook free at the moment...). Of course I was pissed, but more than that---I just was awestruck that this teacher can't see the benefits of this project. This unit aligns with more of the state Language Arts standards than most of the other units we teach; it's grounded in sound research (so far I have 20 pages of my thesis and a shelf full of books to prove it); students are learning valuable skills that will transfer beyond the classroom, etc. etc. As I packed up to leave my classroom yesterday, my mind was spinning with thoughts. I passed by poster above of quotes hanging in the front of my room, and I keyed in on one that I've used as a journal prompt and point of discussion with my students:
  "The first resistance to social change is to say it's not necessary." --Gloria Steinem
This project IS necessary for so many reasons. I won't convince all of my students, all of the parents, or all of my colleagues of its importance. But after four years of research, I'm convinced this project is good for kids---so in the words of Joe Dirt, I'll keep on keepin' on doing what's best for kids.


Amy said...

And you absolutely should "keep on keepin' on!" This is a fantastic project and your students are learning so much more than the Language Arts standards. You are helping them learn to be caring citizens and to give back to the community. In my mind, that is more important than any state standard!!

Kristin said...

It's not only extremely unprofessional to comment on another teacher's unit but to do so in a very public and social way like facebook is just plain rude. Isn't this the unit that inspired the cancer walk last year? The one that we walked the day my husband's mother passed away from cancer?
Seriously I wish we would have had this opportunity as a unit in school.

I'm angry for you on this one, lol.

Heart's Cry said...

I'm so proud of you and your students. I spent time with two of them and was amazed with the depth and thoughtfulness of their questions and engagement.

Thank you for doing this and not be afraid to face resistance head on! That is how change happens.

Stu said...

I've been racking my brain trying to think of something to say about this post that might be encouraging.

It sounds like a great course to me. College-bound students should be flocking to it; projects like this - apart from being excellent things to do - would be a great opportunity for distinguishing themselves on admissions applications.

Your fellow teachers will always be jerks. At least that's my experience. I've never known a time when other people have failed to find their own reason for looking down on me.

Or maybe that's just my own insecurity talking.

Whatever -

...envy and insecurity are two resources the Devil can find in limitless supply among all of us, and has no difficulty in using it to make us love our neighbors quite a bit less than we ought to. I can only suggest you get used to it.