Sydney Chaffee: How teachers can help kids find their political voices
Sydney Chaffee believes that teachers and students can change the world together. Full bio
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that all people in a society
opportunities and access to resources.
controversial and nebulous,
for social justice actually looks like.
can look like this ...
my work or my priorities as a teacher,
can be a tool for social justice.
onto Twitter -- as I do --
had taken issue with that belief.
"should not be social justice warriors,
of education is to educate."
don't just teach subjects,
walk into our classrooms,
is bound up in historical context,
happens in a vacuum,
doesn't really matter,
to what's happening all around them.
of the Implicit Association Test,
subconscious biases against black people,
lazier and more dangerous than whites.
of the insidious effects
on our country.
we could look at incarceration rates;
violence against black people;
gap in education --
belongs in our schools.
of the mission of every school
to be more than a slogan ...
for children to become active citizens
that they need to change the world.
that will lead to justice
into the work of schools.
collaboration, perseverance --
revolutionary on its own.
to understand history
on which we all agree,
to explore history with our students
that history is ongoing
to current movements for justice.
as potential players
how to work for justice.
wasn't happy with that idea
with my definition of justice.
eye to eye, politically.
to articulate their own opinions,
if he and I agree.
students have those conversations
how to have really tricky conversations,
to different opinions,
connects to the world outside.
the history of apartheid in South Africa
in South Africa imposed racist laws
you risked jail time, violence or death.
other countries' governments,
South Africa, because ...
government passed a new law
in South Africa
referred to that language
were outraged at this law.
nor their teachers spoke.
from the township of Soweto
through the streets to protest the law.
they met up with the police,
until almost 20 years later,
in Soweto profoundly changed
what was happening in South Africa.
published this photo
killed by police in Soweto,
to ignore the brutality
that followed the Soweto uprising,
exerted political and economic pressure
to end apartheid,
of those kids in Soweto.
to draw connections
in Soweto and themselves.
and agency they have.
there would ever be a reason
could live in a more just world.
every single year,
will ever listen to their voices.
from one of our students.
to walk out of school.
of Michael Brown's death
to join a walkout and march
had a decision to make.
to try to control the students
the principles of social justice
since the ninth-grade year?
the kids left school en masse
jumped up on a picnic table
took it very seriously.
spent that afternoon in class.
of the Black Lives Matter movement,
with classes as scheduled.
participated in a citywide student walkout
voice for justice.
to spend the afternoon,
valuable lessons that day.
in their lives would support them
to tell them how or when
of a community of young people
of a more equitable society,
within that society.
like the Soweto uprising
for social justice can look like.
they would participate in a protest
of students to say that since 1967.
who are having difficulty
or "essential" goal for them.
to say that since the late 1960s.
for justice doesn't just follow
I talked about earlier --
engaging in activism,
like leadership and critical thinking,
with their political participation
to their communities later in life.
that social justice matters to them
that it helps students learn.
who participated in the Soweto uprising,
had grown up under apartheid,
it was to speak out.
to lay low and stay safe.
were really conflicted, too.
that they would walk out
why they were protesting.
some students' families,
that the school hadn't done more
about getting this stuff wrong --
that we will listen to their voices
to effect change.
to equip our students
that they need
to get out of their way,
to things that they care about.
is going to require
that we're creative.
that we're brave enough
who try to silence
that sometimes we will be the ones
in which systems that we have created,
and it's going to be painful
our own assumptions and beliefs.
about rebellion in our kids?
against our ideas
that we're doing something right
manifested in more convenient ways --
or their standardized tests --
do not often go hand in hand.
critically about the world around them,
injustice when they see it
is going to require some rethinking
and learning look like,
they're going to walk all over us
will devolve into total chaos.
and passively receive knowledge from us,
that learning is sometimes messy,
to brainstorm and mess up
and want to learn
to facilitate that kind of learning.
your eyes for a second
where teachers are thought partners,
with complex, hard issues
the right answers.
where we let students make choices --
the consequences of those choices.
we let students be humans,
and the uncertainty
are already pushing the boundaries
and learning can look like
in all kinds of schools,
for teachers who want to get better
in a way that's more authentic
that the work of education
sound really impressive,
to actually mean anything in practice.
but, rather, engines."
driving our work as teachers?
to be found in the words of Cornel West,
is what love looks like in public."
teachers in the crowd
than "I teach my subject."
a political act.
make tomorrow better.
to practice today.
should start in our schools.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERSydney Chaffee - Educator
Sydney Chaffee believes that teachers and students can change the world together.
Why you should listen
As the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee traveled the world to advocate for education as a transformative tool to help young people create more just societies. Chaffee teaches ninth grade Humanities at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston, MA and is a National Board Certified Teacher.
(Photo: Edwin Yoo)
Sydney Chaffee | Speaker | TED.com