Technology has most certainly engrained itself in the present lives of our youths. Teens are becoming more and more dependent on technology and we can not deny that there is a fascination among our youths today that is centered around social media. A huge part of how teens interact with one another nowadays is linked to the use of different social media platforms and the accessibility to information has been ramped up by technology. People are using social media to communicate, share, connect, and even advocate for one another. We are seeing more people advocating for different social justice issues online and taking a stance on a variety of topics. We can not dispute that “ technology is accelerating the rate at which ideas, relationships, and information are shared and that mass distribution [as well as] the ability to effortlessly share information has influenced many facets of modern life, changing the way we think about, connect to, and engage with social justice and activism” (Marville University, 2023). With the increase in the use of technology, educators are now left pondering whether they have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice.
While finishing my undergraduate degree, it was voiced by many professors and colleagues that I should be careful with what I chose to share on social media with others and it was stressed that privacy could be hard to attain because we were continuously in the public eye. I quickly came to understand that educators are held to a high standard and every little thing we say or do is being analyzed and critiqued by the public. Every school year I have students that tell me upon meeting me that they or their parents went searching for me on social media and on the internet; some of them do a deep dive and will pull up information that I had even forgotten about or was not aware was somewhere online. Part of me can sympathize with parents that are curious to get to know their child’s teacher and make sure they are responsible citizens. However, there is another part of me that feels exposed and vulnerable because I can not have a little more privacy in my daily life. It is also very common to run into students/families when doing different errands or going out for supper with friends and family, thus educators need to be mindful of their behaviour as well as how they portray themselves when they are out and about. It seems that educators are often being observed underneath a magnifying glass and any stance we take on differing issues is ready to be highlighted.
At the beginning of my career, I was very concerned that parents would think I had an agenda when it came to the different topics I taught in class; this was particularly true when it came to any controversial topics that were taught in the classroom. As a woman pertaining to a racialized group, I had this fear that parents would think I was teaching with an agenda in mind – especially when we discussed issues of race or topics relating to Truth and Reconciliation. I would even triple-check to make sure what I was teaching reflected the outcomes in the curriculum. Additionally, I made certain that my administration was on board with what I was teaching and was always aware of the different topics being discussed in class. Having my administration back me up was reassuring and gave me the confidence to discuss controversial topics freely in my classroom. As a new teacher, I recall it was important for me to remain “neutral” on a variety of topics – in retrospect, I can link this feeling of uncertainty about what was appropriate to teach in the classroom to a fear of backlash and inexperience.
Now that I have more experience teaching, I have come to understand that teachers hold power and infinite amounts of responsibility. I believe it is our job to teach our students to act responsibly and think critically for themselves. On many occasions, we use the classroom as a starting point to discuss controversial topics and it is in the classroom where we pass on various morals and values to students that we hope will make them better overall human beings in the future. From a young age, we teach children at school that we do not lie, we do not steal, we do not hit/hurt others and we treat others how we would like to be treated. We discuss the concept of bullying and intimidation and teach students to embrace the concept of acceptance while celebrating our differences and unique attributes. Additionally, we teach students to not only respect others but to also take a stand when injustices are taking place; we also strive to ensure our students show empathy and compassion for others. Educators do all this in a guiding manner to help students reach these outcomes of their own volition.
I believe that educators can discuss controversial subjects with their students while voicing their stance on the issues at hand. The trick is to create a safe classroom environment where students feel they can express themselves wholeheartedly without fear of repercussions and that all students feel like their voices are being heard as well as their contributions in class discussions are valued. I feel strongly that educators have the responsibility to teach for social justice in their classrooms – especially considering the times we are currently living in. Furthermore, I consider the use of social media to introduce different instances of social justice taking place worldwide an excellent alternative.
“Social media has provided a dynamic avenue for activists to spread their messages and reach a wider audience on the global stage… [Social media provides a] sense of togetherness and collective consciousness allows individuals to be seen and to be heard by others and encourages people to share their own stories without fear of judgment or that they are alone in their struggles” (Gehr, 2021).
Taking into consideration the huge role social media plays in our students’ day-to-day life, I think it would be wise that we use this avenue to promote social justice initiatives while building on the sense of community.