Thursday, 10 June 2010
Amnesty Peace Classroom
This school term (2009-2010), I have run an Amnesty Club in the Middle school where I teach.
I have 14 club members and we meet weekly to discuss current violations of human rights and every month our group debates about one theme. Our debates have provided opportunities for students to develop leadership skills, build a sense of community, and recognize and respect differences.
The adolescents have learned to think critically, analyze, evaluate information and express ideas from a variety of perspectives. They have discovered diverse beliefs and understandings. During our weekly debates, they have read the "words and the WORLD."
Students were encouraged to ask questions, participate in dialogue and develop a critical stance. I have used critical literacy as a tool to help adolescent readers to interact with text.
Through the use of young-adult literature, we can help adolescents view characters as living with wrestling with real problems close to their own life experiences. In turn, those circumstances will lead the adolescents to explore character identity and values through the use of critical literacy activities.
They were able to understand and discuss the choices that authors make as they construct characters and plot and they were able to actively resist and challenge its dominant message or character representations.
The students' critical thinking skills allowed them to balance what readers bring to the text and what they take from it. They were able to explore the assumptions under which authors seem to have been operating when constructing their messages.
I have challenged the Amnesty club members, who are also my students in English Literature, History & Geography, to read a piece of text from a perspective unlike their own. Being asked to interpret text through the lens of a different world view, whether that be racial, cultural, gender, religious, or socioeconomic status challenges students to consider both word and the world as they read and experience text (Behrman, 2006).
Their first project was about the theme "Child Labor." Child labor is a serious issue and it is connected to poverty. They had to interview a child laborer and they read their script during assembly. Some of them presented a power point of their interview. They shared their experience with the rest of the middle and high school students during a school assembly.
We named the project, "If I wasn't me, I might be you." We took a firm stand against child labor and we decided to work together and to stay united against this important issue.
We had the great honor to have a representant from the Amnesty Bureau in Cotonou who came and animated a debate in our classroom about the problem of child Labor in Rep of Benin.
This school term (2009-2010), the students have discussed 9 themes in the classroom: Stop violence against Girls, Send all Girls to school, Demand dignity, Refugees, Torture, Death Penalty, Human Rights Defenders, Safe schools, and Children's Rights.
In May, our middle school play was about the Death Penalty. We have also debated the Pros and Cons and the students were able to express their opinions in a safe and secure environment.
We all believe that a safe and secure learning environment for adolescents is conducive to achieving academic and social excellence.
Next September, I am looking forward into running for the second year our student Amnesty International club.