Does Silence REALLY Speak Louder Than Words?

Educators play a tremendous role in the lives of their students – not only do educators teach, but they also act as role models. With that, it is important to understand the influence we have on the thoughts and actions of our students. As media and technology expands, it is also important that educators understand how to use their social media platforms in a professional and informed manner. Over the last few days, several events have followed the killing of George Floyd in the United States and have expanded globally. This movement demonstrates the impact that social media plays on society. With that, I believe that as people who play such a huge role in influencing children and youth, we do have a responsibility of modeling active citizenship and anti-oppressive education in digital spaces. However, I also believe that it is just as important that we are aware and well-informed of what we post before posting.

I believe that modelling active citizenship and anti-oppressive education in digital spaces have several benefits. Not only does this action allow us to educate individuals outside of the classroom about social justice issues, but it also allows us to become more informed on these topics ourselves. As previously stated, it is crucial to educate ourselves about what we are posting before we post them – this includes checking facts and accuracy, and ensuring that our resources are reliable. Doing so will ensure that we are well-informed on what we are posting and why we are posting it. In addition, I believe that part of this process includes reflection. In order to grasp knowledge, it is important to practice metacognition. Doing so will encourage us to really understand the history of these injustices and movements, as well as realize our own biases and privileges.

Although we can acknowledge our own privileges and educate ourselves on social justice issues, there still comes times where what we say may be inaccurate or misinterpreted. I believe this is what I fear and worry about when posting about social justice issues. As an able-bodied, straight, cisgender, non-black or Indigenous POC, from a middle-class family, I understand that I come from a place of privilege and I know that I must use this privilege in a way to fight against injustices. However, I have a fear of saying the wrong thing. To this day, majority of what I post regarding social justice and social justice issues are resources, as I believe the first step to social justice is being educated. We discussed in class how this was a good starting point in using digital spaces to model active citizenship and anti-oppressive education. However, I know that I must do more and in order to do more, I must continue educating myself, become comfortable with being uncomfortable, and be open to criticism. Moreover, when something is posted online and does not receive the expected responses, how we respond to these responses is what matters the most. It is important to read them with an open-mind, accept it as constructive criticism, and grow from it, rather than take it personally and respond out of anger or frustration. Responding rather than reacting applies in the digital world, as much as it does in the outside world.

I believe that when it comes to social justice, silence does not speak louder than words. A specific example on the risks of remaining silent that we discussed in class was the silence of Alice Keeler. Keeler is an educator with a large audience on Twitter. With the Black Lives Matter movement being more active than ever, several of her followers have asked her to use her voice to advocate and educate herself on the ongoing issues. However, rather than responding, she blocked these individuals and continued posting her typical posts that consist of educational resources and self-promoting. This silence and her reaction to the messages spoke a lot about her character and her beliefs and values – demonstrating the risks of remaining silence. Since our discussion last class, Keeler has held herself accountable and apologized for her actions and has stated to take a break from her platform to educate herself on the ongoing issues; however, her authenticity is now being questioned due to her initial reaction of silence.

Finally, my professor Katia Hildebrandt and her colleague Dr. Alec Couros state in an article, “If no one speaks up, children will have no reason to question the hurtful things that they see – and no reason not to join in. When it comes to social justice issues, silence is complicity.” On the other hand, when people do speak up, it creates a movement and encourages people to act – Individuals begin to raise awareness, ask questions, educate themselves and others, and even protest against injustices. Words allow the voices and stories of the oppressed to be heard and action to be made. Whereas silence sends the message that social injustice is not to be questioned or challenged and instead, ignored. We discussed in class how in the past, educators would be praised for their silence and for not getting involved in “political issues”. However, in today’s society, it is important that we teach students how to be active and engaged citizens, which includes advocating and educating for social justice, and the best way to do so is to model it ourselves. As Hildebrandt and Couros state, “In a post-truth, digital world, it’s no longer acceptable for educators to sit on the sidelines claiming to be neutral. Hateful, hurtful misinformation can no longer be left unexamined and unchallenged. Rather, as teachers, we have the responsibility to fight back and to show our students how to do the same.”

5 thoughts on “Does Silence REALLY Speak Louder Than Words?”

  1. Morgan Bray says:

    Great post here! I completely agree with everything you said. As educators it is so important we show support and educate people about these topics. As we discussed in class, once we decide to be teachers, we promise to continually educate and support our students and communities. Now that the world is digital, it is important we continue to show that support online. However, like you said, we have to think before we post. It is important we are always educating ourselves while we try to always educate others. After all, teachers are life long learners. Thanks for sharing!
    Morgan Bray

    1. Hi Morgan,
      Yes definitely, our role as teachers does go beyond the classroom. I agree that we must be lifelong learners in order to effectively support our students. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  2. Tracey Beaven says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I really enjoyed reading your post. I have had many of the same thoughts as you, we will influence our students in many ways, I have a fear of saying the wrong thing, we must educate ourselves, and we need to learn how to speak up when we can are just a few of them. Being able to model digital citizenship will go a long way in helping our students learn how to navigate the world around them.

    1. Hi Tracey,
      I’m glad I am not the only one who felt that way. It’s so important that we do educate ourselves in order to speak up and that we don’t let this fear stop us from doing what we feel is right. I agree that modelling digital citizenship will definitely help with teaching our students to do the same. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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