The #MeToo movement has shed new light on the prevalence of gender-based harassment and violence. As national conversations about power, patriarchy, and oppression continue to expand, we have seen acknowledgement on a smaller scale (including through #MeTooK12) that schools and students are not immune to these issues. However, conversations about healthy relationships and dating, gender equality, sexism, and harassment are not easy, which has led to a longstanding culture of silence. Only about half of all states have requirements for teaching sex education, leaving the landscape around students' knowledge of these topics uneven.
How can we support our students in the wake of the #MeToo Movement?
Barbara Dee's timely exploration of this subject is the perfect starting point for conversations regarding the #MeToo Movement in our schools.
"For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?
But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape.
It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself."
Lesson and Resources
A fellow change-agent teacher friend of mine, Courtney Hagans, and I read this heartfelt novel and knew it would be the perfect starting ground for a deeper discussion regarding the #MeToo Movement for her 8th graders. There is nothing explicit in the novel, but it does bring up some deeper (and let's be honest, uncomfortable) conversations.
To introduce the novel, we introduced the idea of the #MeToo movement based on a lesson we found from the New York Times with a graffiti wall (thank you Padlet) answering a few intro questions.
(Padlet was copied over so that names are not listed to maintain the privacy of our students.)
We thought using Padlet would help our students open up more due to the anonymity of the posts. We used these points to guide our discussions in small groups with our girls.
From there, we began reading the novel. We used the following discussion questions to guide our book discussions in person.
We had the phenomenal opportunity to meet with Ms. Dee following the completion of the novel in which our girls spent their lunch having a conversation with her regarding the book and the #MeToo Movement in schools, specifically middle school. It was the most amazing experience to get first hand information and to be able to ask questions from the expert and author!
As the final project of this lesson, our 8th graders put together a Wakelet of resources for their classmates and teachers to learn more about the #MeTook12 movement to support our school community as well as to help the stigma of this subject becomes less controversial and more helpful.