A Message for ALL Beginning Teachers

Since you are a beginning teacher, I’d like to talk to you about classroom management and corporal punishment.

You know what they say! Spare the rod and spoil the child!

I’m only kidding.

I’d really like to talk to you about justice and the new technological canvas.

The world has sped up. It’s forever changed.

Most of us now live in a world of memes, 140 character tweets, almost instantaneous news alerts, Facebook status updates, snapchats and Instagram photos of your friends’ latest meal.

We are now living in a world of #FakeNews written by teenagers in Eastern Europe and distributed by bots design by foreign governments.

We live in a world of #AlternativeFacts and reality show styled public policy.

We must now sort through mounds of information and mis-information that arrives each day, each hour.

This speed and brazen falseness of some information in the public discourse has made you more important than ever before.

You are a teacher.

Not “Just a teacher” Please never introduce yourself as “Just a teacher.”

Because each day YOU lay the foundation of democracy.

You are entrusted with a very special responsibility.

You are an expertly trained educator.

An educator that will be respected by your community.

Deservedly respected by families.

Deservedly respected by policymakers (most of the time).

Deservedly respected by education stakeholders.

You have a very sacred responsibility to live up to these expectations.

You have a sacred responsibility to impart knowledge.

But I have to tell you, we must go further.

In the word of DJ Khaled, you’ve got the keys keys keys!

We must train our students to be warriors for democracy and critical thought.

We should encourage our students to not only use their new and social media for leisure, but also to further our democracy.

Encourage your students to:

  • Investigate and engage in contemporary issues. A safe space to explore beyond preconceptions. Develop critical discourse based on empiricism and historical context.
  • Foment critical thinking in writing. Despite pressures from policymakers to focus on testing, ensure that your students can craft arguments. Teach them to read and decipher data, op-eds and policy jargon. You can even encourage them to blog or diary for justice to hone their writing skills.
  • Teach them to prepare for opportunities in the traditional media (i.e. TV and Radio). Give them opportunities in class to appear on camera and debate in front of a live microphone.
  • Tap their creativity to form content that can go viral such as short video clips and memes. Expose them to great civil and human rights thinkers beyond Malcolm, King, Gandhi and Du Bois. Expose them to young human rights leaders around the world.
  • Push them to rethink social media as a mode to mobilize ideas (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat etc.). There is clearly fun to be had on social media, but also inspire students to engage in the great public debates of our time such at #BlackLivesMatter— which was born on social media.

The mobilization of these ideas by students need not necessarily be fully public. They can be limited to family and friends as they mature.

Abraham Lincoln once said “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”

This new era of media has enabled students to contribute to democratic discourse via social and traditional media such snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and lots of other apps that parents and educators have never heard of.

I proffer it is incumbent upon educators to train students to consider how to integrate justice into their approach to the world.

Today’s students must lead and participate in the public’s “great debates.”

So I encourage you to think about how your curriculum empowers students to mobilize knowledge.

Encourage and train them to participate as full citizens on behalf of justice.

As the next generation of educators you can utilize social and new media as the technological canvass by which students can empower their communities as critical consumers of emerging knowledge and leave a lasting democratic legacy.

The vibrancy of our democracy is at stake and is in your capable hands.

These remarks were delivered at The Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) in Columbia, Missouri on March 29, 2017.

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