Day of Action spurs Education students to pledge inclusivity
June 20, 2017   //   By:   //   Achievements, Features

Who better to foster change in how we view one another and create positive mindsets than teachers who work every day with curious minds. Elizabethtown College’s Education Department has found a way to help bring this idea of change to action.

E-town’s Tempest Day of Action, acknowledged this past spring on March 20, grew from the Tempest Lecture Series, which, for at least a decade, had brought a speaker or panel onto campus to discuss a current event or complement an Education Department common read. The speakers were traditional academics or scholars, practitioners and policy makers. Though the information they shared was important, an additionally important component was lacking – action.

Theories are talked about, said Finley-Bowman, associate professor of education and department chair, but what was needed was forward movement. “We wanted to make sure there was an outcome.”

“It was no longer just a talking head,” she said, referring to the lecture. “We looked at what can we do to make an action piece, advocacy for social justice … start a conversation. We were interested in our own dialogue.”

For the Day of Action, now scheduled in each spring semester, “we pick an issue of social justice — related to education — to raise awareness,” said Elizabeth Coyle, associate professor of education. “It’s always well-received. It’s not just awareness; there is something the students can do about it.”

Last year the group delved into immigration, the year before that it was ethnic race relations. For 2017, the students gathered to discuss inclusion in the classroom.

The group gathered in the College’s Mosaic House. Established in 2016, it serves as a gathering place for students of diverse backgrounds and interests. Monica Smith, director of diversity and inclusion at E-town, was the featured facilitator. She helped frame the conversation and, with the assistance of students, planned the day and coordinated the activities.

Students gathered in table groups and developed a call to action and created goals. Students from various education organizations, Kappa Delta Pi honors, National Science Teachers Association — were involved, said Julie Weeks, a junior early childhood education student who helped plan the event. “We got students from each group to form a committee.”

The groups made pledges via Twitter posts declaring the differences they will make in their classrooms when they begin teaching.

Following a “Building the Foundation” theme, the students focused on each pledge as a brick that would create the groundwork for teaching inclusiveness in the classroom. The ideas centered on the concept that there can be advocacy at all levels. In the classroom, student leaders can help shape students’ views of the world around them.

The longer they talked, the more themes that emerged as possible actions — choices of books in language arts, spreading awareness of grief and how educators can help students cope, a multicultural theme …

“A lot of the students made pretty attainable goals” that will be used in their future classrooms, said Weeks. “They wanted to create a classroom where no one would be judged and can say what they want to openly and freely. A judge-free zone.” A lot of the student groups talked about including global perspective when discussing current events in the classroom and bringing more tangible liberal arts into the class through art and music. Some of the smaller goals outlined a classroom library that would include diverse choices.

The emphasis, though, is about moving past pledges and actually doing something, Weeks said. “It’s not just a moment in time but a call to action. How do we make change?”

The first step of that action, she said, is a coordinated teach-in, which takes place at the College in the fall.

About the Author :

E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey is the communications manager and news editor at Elizabethtown College. She has worked in the Office of Marketing and Communications since 2008, after more than two decades as a newspaper feature writer. She holds a bachelor's degree in corporate communication from Elizabethtown College.

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