Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Student Success in Social Studies

I'm nothing if not obvious about my love for alliteration and puns...

A couple of weeks ago you may have seen the focus on Amnesty and their #DoubleTheQuota. Without getting into too much detail - the idea for our students was to do some sort of campaign to tautoko (support) the idea.

Now... herein lies my first big issue. Let me set the scene. I have the most AMAZING social studies class. They will probably be my favourite social studies class for the rest of my days because they are just so incredibly on board with everything we've looked into this year - human trafficking, human rights violations, animal rights, the Holocaust, the ways in which we treat others... and yet... they just COULD NOT get their heads around the Double the Quota issue.

Xenophobia, racism and connections to social issues we are currently facing were the knee jerk reactions from my students. I encouraged them to take the idea home and discuss it further with their parents and yet my students still would not budge. We watched videos showing the refugee crisis from a Pakeha (British) perspective and while they could point out the juxtaposition of the nature of the video - where videos like this show a more consistent stereotypical ethnic perspective... they could not truly relate or see why we should double the quote from 750 to 1500 in NZ.

I felt like I was losing a pretty big battle and even two of my most amazing English students offered to help and got the support and permission from their social studies teacher, my fabulous colleague Ruth, and they came and presented to my class with the presentation that they'd created all on their own. The English teacher in me cringed when I saw a few mistakes in their spelling but I was just so overjoyed and proud of these boys for stepping up that I and the class ignored these.

Even their peers could not sway my students ideas around this.

So I gave up. I shouldn't have. But I'm glad I did in a way because we created a more individualised learning focus like we'd done previously in different units - where students had to be in a group to run their own campaing about a particular idea or something we'd focussed on already this year. And did they jump at the chance to do something other than the quota campaign.

And the majority of the students organised themselves incredibly well. It was obvious seeing the slackers in different groups and I'm glad that overall the assessment is an individual one not a group mark because it's just not fair when you put in more work thsn someone else.

Anyway - one particular student completely went above and beyond what I'd asked of them to do. She stayed behind after school one day with me and got pictures printed out, laminated them to make magnets for the fridge to sell and created a petition data entry form so that she could go to different classes to sign the petition online to stop the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. She was so busy with this I didn't realise she'd also enlisted her family to help as well and signed up a bunch of friends and family to speak out against the slaughter which was due to begin two days ago. When O.F began her quest she had 11 days left til the drive hunt started again and I am just so incredibly proud of her.

Part of her push to do this must have been what an activist talked about with us via Skype. No names. We are incredibly indebted to her though and thankful thst she was able to speak with us about her experiences.

As a result O.F has been inspired by this level of activism and has shown to herself and to us all that her big heart can truly lead her to awesome places.

I really hope that Ric Barry and his cove monitors stay safe and keep fighting. Because if we can even stave off the slaughter for a small while, if not for forever - that would be brilliant for our dolphin population but also for O.F's motivation and self-belief that she made an impact to create more awareness.

So proud.


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