Intersections: International Women's Day 2019

March 08, 2019 by Bill Ivey

I think Greta was very influential to a lot of young activists, and I also am really happy people from my generation are doing so much, and it’s making me have ideas of things I could do too. - 7th grade SBS student

Recently, teen activist Greta Thunberg addressed the World Economic Forum at Davos on the urgency of climate change. My Humanities 7 class had designed a unit on their question “How do we affect others?”, so we watched her speech on video. The kids admired her poise, reasoning, moral clarity, and strength.

I knew this class was particularly anxious about climate change, and so I designed a follow-up activity for the next day. I split them into four groups, and assigned each group to read and report on two of the student activists mentioned in the article, “why are thousands of students striking from school?” As a wrap-up (and since I was away on professional development), the students wrote me individually on their personal thoughts and reactions to the article, discussion, and the issue itself.

Besides the ideas in the quote that opens this blog, they also brought up the ability to take seemingly small actions that add up, the role of adults in supporting kids, and the importance of listening: “The more people that listen to what these people have to say, the more impact we can make.” And beyond that...

In an interview with Walt Disney Imagineering Technology Executive Bei Yang for the Smithsonian, Naomi Wadler talked about the importance of platforming. In introducing herself, she noted, “I am a 12-year-old Black student activist and the main thing that I use my platform for… let me start… I gave a speech at the March For Our Lives, and there were a lot of people there, and I didn’t expect it to blow up as much as it did. But I’m happy that it did, so that I can be able to use my platform to give platforms and give a voice to other Black girls who don’t feel as if they have one.” And her very presence at the March For Our Lives was also an example of that, as the Parkland kids organizing the rally deliberately sought intersectional representation among the speakers.

Listening. Using platforms. Providing platforms. Speaking up. Taking actions big and small. As we take stock of the lives of women and girls on this International Day of the Women, all of this is fundamentally important to making progress. And of course, that is also a major part of the fundamental mission of this school: to support our students in developing and using their voices effectively, and in working for a world where those voices will continue to be heard.

Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

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Filed Under: International Women's Day, Greta Thunberg, Naomi Wadler, student voice, Middle School, Feminism, intersectionality, Intsersections