Free World - September 15, 2021

​​Ife Damon wanted her high school students to become change agents—especially i…


​​Ife Damon wanted her high school students to become change agents—especially in a year when the world grappled with a pandemic, health disparities, police violence and systemic racism. So she adapted her lessons to meet the moment, writes Katie Reilly. Last school year, Damon taught ninth- and 10th-grade English at Staten Island’s Curtis High School, which serves mostly Black and Latino students within a predominantly white borough of New York City. She instructed her students to make pandemic time capsules that focused not only on COVID-19 but also on the Black Lives Matter movement. Students interviewed a relative or community member about their perspective on the pandemic and created videos about their experience as teens during the past year. During a lesson on dystopias, Damon, 44, asked students to write about injustices that bother them in the U.S. today. And she expanded a lesson on persuasive writing by asking them to send their essays to people in power. Some petitioned for more sports teams at their school; others called for justice for Breonna Taylor or advocated for LGBTQ rights, while sharing their own experiences with discrimination. “As a Black woman in America, growing up in American education, these issues weren’t addressed in school,” says Damon, but she believes that such conversations are necessary for the world to change and that they must start with young people. “I wanted them to feel empowered and know that they can make change now.” Read more about the educators who saved a pandemic school year at the link in bio. Photograph by @elias.williams for TIME



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