Well, what a marvelous and draining day. This is a post of gratitude-which might surprise those who know me because this does not come easily for me these days. However, I am most grateful for my colleagues and my students. William Byrd High School launched Globalize 13 and became part of the modern day abolitionist movement. Students and many inspiring teachers, led by history teacher Cristy Spencer,
held a school-wide event to begin the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment by drawing attention to current slavery and human trafficking that exists world wide. Students and even some teachers were shocked to learn that over 30 million people are enslaved all over the world, including in our own state and country. This is a heavy topic for teenagers (or anyone for that matter) and one that could have been easily dismissed as over their heads or too depressing or too hopeless. However, we are fortunate to be part of an amazing community of young people and they were fortunate enough to hear an historical and inspiring story from Ken Morris. As a descendent of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, Mr. Morris shied away from an activist’s role until he learned of modern day trafficking and looked at his daughters who were the same age as those he had just read about in National Geographic. His message was powerful and the organization, the Frederick Douglas Family Initiative has a program called Globalize 13, which is designed to inform and empower young people about this relevant topic. Our students took the challenge and created artistic works, contributed to a blog and began to explore the unintended consequences of their consumerism. The topic is too broad to fit into one day, but they compressed as much as possible into every minute. Students greeted visitors; we had a welcome breakfast for those involved. The assembly was respectful and energizing; the exhibits were emotional, practical and informative. Students put their knowledge and talents out there for all to see. Community organizations and businesses brought exhibits to show progress being make for providing shelter and information about trafficking and child labor and fair trade products. This was a holistic approach to learning.
I so wish that people would realize that this is what great schools do. We are not a top testing school. I am one of the first to tell the negative stories because the public doesn’t understand how exhausting, unfair and demeaning the world of education has become and how budget cuts and increased benchmarks have hurt our children. What you also need to know is how incredible our schools, teachers and young people are and how this is our source of hope for the future. Two of our recent graduates came back- one to do an original musical performance and one to encourage students to break down cardboard walls to help victims of trafficking. Our school and our teachers and our community came out to learn about a difficult topic, and students were inspired to make a difference in the world. The excitement and interest continued today as French 2 students made posters that are a call to action: “Buy fair trade.” “Don’t buy…” as they looked into companies’ labor practices. Globalize 13 and William Byrd High School are examples of relevant information and authentic learning for and by our students, and for that I am most grateful.