On 11 October, I had the privilege of visiting Lilian Baylis Technology School where I was able to observe young people taking part in our Upstanders drop down day. Not only did I get to witness our Upstanders resources in action, but I also got to witness the power of Facing History values in the classroom: young people having nuanced conversations about how the power of individual choices can shape history and how they can feel empowered to participate as community members and citizens and create a more just and compassionate world.
The day began with all participating year groups thinking about identity. I had some wonderful conversations with students as they created their identity charts about the factors that influence their identity. Understanding identity is critical for students’ own social, moral, and intellectual development. It also serves as a foundation for examining the choices made by individuals in the historical case studies that the students read and discuss during a jigsaw activity, later on in the day.
Session two is centred on an exploration of prejudice and discrimination and introduces students to the concept of being an Upstander and a bystander.
One Year 8 student said, “I didn’t have the word before this for what I was doing when I told others [in my year group] not to laugh at my friend. I was being an Upstander”.
Hearing this student use her experiences to explore her behaviour and actions, and then define herself as an Upstander in such a definite way, was one of the most heartening moments of the day.
Throughout the day, students were given the opportunity to practise their oracy skills through discussion and much of the discussion I observed was lively and thoughtful. It was clear that the students were keen to discuss issues that mattered to them and how they could contribute to these causes in a positive and constructive way.
As they moved into the latter part of the day, students began thinking about what it actually takes to become an Upstander,
One student in Year 7 pointed out: “I’m only in Year 7. I don’t think I’m an Upstander yet. But I know this is what I want to be.”
Listening to this young person realise that this was just the start of their Upstander journey reminded me of the power that education and educators have to transform lives and communities, especially if we invite young people to join the conversation.
Perhaps what will stay with me long after this visit is how much young people want to see a world that is free from bigotry and hate.
The drop down day materials are designed to encourage young people to think critically about the choices, risks and rewards that are involved when they are called upon to be Upstanders. The students were asked to respond to the question ‘What does being an Upstander mean?’
Here is a selection of their passionate and thoughtful responses:
“Being an Upstander takes courage … and courage helps us do the right thing.”
“Being an Upstander is kindness.”
“I guess being an Upstander means seeing the best in everyone.”
“I may not be an Upstander today but I hope I become one.”
The final sessions of the day focus on Choosing to Act, with students beginning to work on a presentation on a topic, theme or idea inspired by the aims of being an Upstander. I cannot wait to see, and be inspired myself, by the empathy and creativity of these students and their presentations!
Schools are wonderful communities built on tolerance, empathy, inclusion and kindness. When students at Lilian Baylis Technology School began their Upstander journey during this drop down day, it was clear that they were tapping into these values.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to both the staff and students at Lilian Baylis Technology School for amplifying these values and encouraging young people to be the best possible versions of themselves.