As mentioned, students learn from us as much through what we say as what we model. Through this unspoken or indirect pedagogy we demonstrate not only skills, but attitudes, beliefs and an orientation to life.
Who we are, our essential selves, can motivate students. When students sense that we love our work, they feel valued, inspired and hopeful. This is a tall order, and points to the need to build awareness of how our orientation may influence our students. By attending not just to negative aspects of a subject or issue, but also to the positive aspects, we can offer hope and a sense of optimism.
For example, we know that history is replete with instances of human cruelty and violence. We can ensure that we balance a truthful rendition of those facts with accounts of human bravery and altruistic heroism in the search for justice.
Having absorbed the myths and misinformation underlying adultism, young people may have difficulty imagining an important place for themselves in the world. We can inspire our students and instil a sense of their potential and capacity by sharing examples of youth achievement. We can scour the media and be ever watchful for stories and instances of youth empowerment to share with our students.
- Malala Yousafzai was a young Pakastani teenager who spoke out about the importance of education for girls through social media. She was attacked and seriously injured because of her stance. Her courage in the face of danger and her determination to fight for justice, is one example of a story that can inspire young people to increase the scope of their own goals.
- Anti-Bullying Day (also known as Pink Shirt Day) is based on an event organized by David Shepherd and Travis Price of Nova Scotia, who in 2007 bought and distributed 50 pink shirts after male ninth grade student Jadrien Cota was bullied for wearing a pink shirt during the first day of school. The event takes place every year around the world on May 4, when people wear a pink, blue or purple shirt to symbolize a stand against bullying.
- Shannon Koostachin is a wonderful local example of a young person who inspired her peers. She led the “Attawapiskat School Campaign” for “safe and comfy schools” and quality, culturally based education for First Nations Children. Following her tragic death in a car accident in 2010, her family, friends and community launched “Shannen’s Dream”, a campaign named in her memory to make sure all First Nations children across Canada have “safe and comfy schools” and receive a good quality education that makes them proud of who they are.
- When a transgender student in Brazil was recently fined for wearing a skirt to school, a group of male classmates rallied to her support. In September 2014, 17-year-old Maria Muniz, a student at Rio de Janeiro’s Colégio Pedro II, was fined by school officials who said that she was breaking a school rule that states that male students must wear trousers. After the punishment, a group of about 15 boys showed up to Colégio Pedro II wearing skirts to support Muniz and her clothing choice.