8 Ways Principals Can Support Teachers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Andrew Hawk

8 Ways Principals Can Support Teachers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

At my school, we are nearing the end of our third full week of school. Approximately one-eighth of my students elected to participate in school as virtual learners at home. The rest returned to an atmosphere that has changed dramatically since they departed last March. Desks are socially distanced. Whole-group instruction is the most-used instructional format. Lunch and special classes are in students’ main classrooms. Physical education has become more of a movement class, and music has become more of a music appreciation class. Staff and students have to wear masks to navigate the building. Our state also mandated that we designate a second nurse’s office specifically for students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.

Do all of us miss our previous ways of operating? Of course we do. Was everyone happy to be back to school? If any of my staff or students wished we had opened 100 percent virtually, no one has mentioned it. Students especially seem to have a new appreciation for school. Office referrals so far have decreased from two or three a day to one or even zero per week.

Still, times are challenging all over the world, and teachers are a group who have seen their workloads and stress levels increase. Here are a few ideas for how administrators can support teachers who are teaching during the time of COVID.

Be Available

Now more than ever, teachers need administrators’ doors to be open. They need administrators’ help finding ways to meet the needs of their students. Since my school is part of a small school district, we could not afford to hire or designate teachers to focus only on virtual learning. Now my teachers are juggling virtual and in-person learning. I have stated in the past that part of a principal’s job is to let staff members vent their frustrations. Teachers need this now more than ever.

Measure Your Responses

Is a teacher reporting that students were taking off their masks in the hallway? Is a virtual learner not turning in work? The way the principal reacts to these reports has to balance validating the teacher’s concern while showing compassion for students and parents. If reactions are not measured in a well-balanced way, the consequences can have a ripple effect. For me, I try to address COVID-related infractions in a manner that is serious but not stern. While I want students to take safety precautions seriously, I also want them to remember elementary school as a place they enjoyed being. Even during the pandemic.

Keep the Essentials Stocked

Some of my staff members wanted a face shield, so we ordered face shields. All students in Indiana were provided a mask at the beginning of the school year. Do they forget their masks at home sometimes? Yes, of course they do. We ordered a lot of masks just for students. Principals should be proactive in keeping these and other essential COVID supplies stocked.

Act as a Buffer

Since the pandemic has become a politically charged topic, we should expect emotions to run high during this time. Indiana is currently operating under a mandate to wear masks in public places. I have already had a parent who was visiting the school for a case conference tell me that it was unconstitutional to tell him to put on a mask. Parents have come into the office angry that they were called about their students having possible COVID symptoms. Staff members debate the need for safety precautions.

Principals need to be the ones to help everyone navigate COVID-related disagreements and grievances. I offered the parent the choice to attend the conference in person with a mask on or to hold the conference as a virtual meeting. This simple concession seemed to make him happy because he felt he had a choice in the matter.

Have a Theme

Yearly themes are a tradition at many schools already. This year especially, having a mantra for your staff to rally around can help everyone keep up their spirits. The instructional coach at my school worked with our staff to choose “Color the World with Kindness” as our theme this year.

Find Creative Solutions

Take stock of whether your teachers are struggling. If they are, find out why, and look for a solution. My teachers needed more time to balance in-person teaching with virtual teaching. It took some doing, but we were able to work out a schedule that gives teachers a second planning period during the day to dedicate to e-learning. Even if you cannot completely solve your teachers’ problems, they will appreciate your effort.

Keep Everyone Updated

New guidance on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Departments of Education monthly, biweekly, and, in some cases, even weekly. Do your best to monitor these releases and update your staff if the information is pertinent to your school.

Focus on the Positives

I find myself constantly reminding everyone that even if we do not like everything we have to do right now, our situation is temporary and there are still many good things that come out of each school day. I recommend closing meetings by having staff take turns naming one good thing that has happened at school this year.

Stay healthy, everyone!

Andrew HawkAndrew Hawk has worked in public education for 18 years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. This is Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with this wife and two daughters.


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FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Thoughts on Free Spirit’s First Remote Internship, or the Nicest Exposé You’ve Ever Read

By Natalia N.

Thoughts on Free Spirit’s First Remote Internship

Free Spirit has an active internship program. We invited our summer publishing intern, Natalia N., to write a post reflecting on her experience at Free Spirit.

This year certainly has been . . . something, to say the least. It’s an interesting time in American history, with COVID, civil unrest, the upcoming presidential election, and other items of note. (Anyone have fire tornado for Apocalypse Bingo? Anyone? Bueller?)

But this was all far from my mind when I applied for internships a lifetime ago in February. I’m not yet sure what I hope to do after graduation, but I know that I’ve always liked reading and writing, so publishing seemed like a natural fit. I wasn’t expecting much. Everyone knows publishing is a notoriously hard industry to break into because most people love their jobs so much that they never leave. On top of that, I’m technically a business major, a far cry from the usual English majors I was sure were queuing up for a chance to work at Free Spirit.

Then the pandemic hit America and everything changed. Classes moved online, everyone was isolating themselves at home, and basically all the internships I’d applied for were canceled. It seemed like the only thing I’d be doing this summer was staying home and puzzling over accounting homework.

Life goes on. I could always try again next year.

But just as I was ready to give up hope, I got an email from Free Spirit asking if I’d still be interested in a remote internship. After an interview, they offered me the position, and I jumped at the chance. Globally, things might not have been great, but my personal life? I couldn’t believe things were going my way.

This was my first internship, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d only ever seen interns depicted onscreen as harried assistants who ran around getting everyone’s coffee order and filing documents late into the night. Obviously, that wouldn’t be happening with a remote internship, so I was pretty much flying blind when it came to expectations.

Office Culture

I don’t remember much about the first few weeks other than that I had no idea what was going on, but I was swept up into the way of things immediately. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, which I was surprised by. I thought that people would just pile on menial tasks they didn’t want to deal with, but the staff genuinely wanted to talk to me and know what I thought. I figured I’d just sit quietly in meetings and take notes, but they made it very clear I was always welcome to chime in. That’s just the type of place Free Spirit is. People always made time for me, even though I was only an intern (even the president, Judy, sat down to talk with me one-on-one).

This internship is less an internship and more a learning experience. Everyone really wanted this experience to be what I wanted to make of it instead of a collection of mundane tasks. A big advantage of being at Free Spirit instead of another publisher is how small it is. There’s a lot of interdepartmental cooperation that happens in order to take a book from an idea to a physical copy, and being an intern here meant that I got to experience a lot of that firsthand.

Everyone Works Together

Maybe this is kind of an obvious observation, but I didn’t realize how much work creating a book would be. I guess I thought editors would quietly work their way through a manuscript before they sent it off to an illustrator and then to the printer.

But deciding on a title and subtitle alone can take an hour of back-and-forth between everyone to make sure it hits all the keywords and correctly conveys what a book is about. One of the first meetings I sat in on was between an editor and the creative team to go through a cover sketch and art direction for a picture book. I thought illustrators had free reign to draw whatever they want, but I learned that art direction can be pretty detailed. It’s important for an illustrator working with Free Spirit to be inclusive of all races, genders, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses so kids can see themselves represented in a book.

There’s so much more that goes into a book than just editing. A manuscript has to bounce between editorial, sales and marketing, and creative multiple times before it’s ready to be published. And there’s work to be done after a book is published too. There’re copyright applications to file, market research to conduct, eBooks to create, and foreign rights and licensing to manage, just to name a few tasks. I’ve spent the last few months immersed in this world, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. (How do they do it all? Do they just inject coffee into their veins? They haven’t shared this secret with me yet.)

Regret(s)

I have to say that my only regret was not being able to visit the office and see all the dogs! Free Spirit is a dog-friendly office, so there are always dogs running around begging for treats from suckers (allegedly). Of course, I have my own dog at home, but you can’t go wrong with more dogs, right? I will admit it was nice to see everyone’s pets online, but I do wish I could’ve seen some of them in person. Other than this tiny complaint, though, I’ve had a wonderful experience.

I know that something very special is coming to an end. I’ve been spoiled for any other company I may intern with in the future. (Was that Free Spirit’s goal all along? Because they succeeded.)

In all seriousness though, thank you to everyone at Free Spirit for taking a chance on me. I really appreciate everything everyone’s done for me over the past few months. I’ll be keeping an eye on upcoming Free Spirit books!

Natalia N. was the summer 2020 publishing intern at Free Spirit Publishing and is a junior at a nearby university where she is majoring in business.


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FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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The Importance of Modeling Kindness and Empathy

By James J. Crist, Ph.D., author of The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends

The Importance of Modeling Kindness and EmpathyA new viral trend has been reported recently in the news: the “New Teacher Challenge.” Parents show their children photos of different people and tell them that this is their child’s new teacher. The kids’ reactions are filmed and shared with others or posted on social media with the purported intent of being funny. While the supposed “teacher’s” picture is usually a mugshot or an image of someone making a silly face, in some cases, those images are of people with physical disabilities or deformities. Kids may react in fear while the parents laugh and post the video on TikTok for the amusement of others.

This is disturbing on so many levels. The pictures being shared are of real people (without their permission) who may have struggled all their lives. Motivational speaker and author Lizzie Velasquez, writer Ariel Henley, and writer and disability activist Melissa Blake, all of whom have physical deformities and have been bullied all their lives, have shared their reactions to being used online as a cruel joke to others. Being different is rarely easy, since there are often others who will make fun of you, especially as a child. Imagine seeing a video of a child reacting fearfully to your picture and realizing that people all over the world are laughing at it. This is an example of cyberbullying, not just of the person pictured, but also of the children who have not consented to have their reactions shared on social media.

Sadly, this is unsurprising in our current culture, where hatred, violence, and lack of empathy for others who are different—in their race, religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, body type, and country of origin (to name just a few)—seem to have reached epidemic levels. Every day we see the disrespect that adults have for other adults in the news. The protests over the summer are a reflection of the emotional damage done when people are harmed by those sworn to protect them. It is dehumanizing. At the same time, we know it is not fair to judge an entire group based on the actions of a few. That can be demoralizing to those who are trying their best and risking their lives to help others.

We need to work harder to build a kinder society. This starts with how we raise children. Kids learn by example. As adults, we have a responsibility to raise emotionally healthy, responsible, respectful, and kind children. Kids learn by watching how we treat them and others. The poem “Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D., has been around for many years and speaks to this issue. To quote the first line: “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.” How many of us value kindness in the kids we work with or parent as much as we value achievement? Or winning? Or obedience?

We set an example for kids when they observe how we treat others. When they see teachers yelling at students or putting them down, they learn this is acceptable behavior. When we yell or cuss at drivers who cut us off in traffic, kids learn this is okay. If we say unkind things about others in a child’s presence, they learn to be critical. When we treat those who work for us or wait on us at stores or restaurants—or who remind us that we need to wear masks to keep others safe—as somehow less than us, or beneath our dignity or unworthy of our respect, we all lose. These lessons are not lost on children. They watch us.

Kids are naturally self-centered. They are still learning how to handle their emotions and developing the capacity to think about how their words and actions affect others. They need our help in developing empathy. Showing empathy for others is a skill that increases the likelihood that your child will be successful in school, on the job, in friendships and relationships, as a parent, and in life.

When you see kids mistreating each other, which is common (siblings fight frequently), instead of criticizing or disciplining the perceived aggressor, you can ask kids questions in a calm tone to help them understand. For example, you might ask, “Hey, I see you’re pretty upset. What happened? Why do you think your classmate was mad at you? How do you think what you said or did affected them? How would you feel if someone said that (or did that) to you? Is that how would you want that person to feel? How could you have expressed your feelings in a nicer way?” This works at school as well as at home.

In today’s busy world, it often seems easier to focus on what children are doing wrong than on what they are doing right. But it’s always a good idea to pay more attention to the good behavior. Kids crave attention, and if they know they’ll get positive attention for good behavior, they are more likely to keep it up. If they get more attention for bad behavior, then you’ll see more of that.

Paying attention to when kids are showing kindness or empathy, and praising them for it, makes it more likely that such behavior will continue. For example, you could say, “I noticed how nicely you talked to your little brother today. Did you see him smile? It means a lot to him, and to me, when you are kind.” When you explain the reasons why certain behaviors are good or bad, kids are more likely to internalize those values and demonstrate caring toward others when you are not watching them.

Encouraging good manners is a great way to facilitate kindness and empathy. It shows respect to others when you use words such as please, thank you, and you’re welcome. Model these with your kids when you talk to them. Everyone reacts better to requests when asked nicely. When you treat kids with respect, they learn to treat you with respect as well.

Part of learning empathy and kindness involves teaching kids how to express their feelings constructively—especially anger, which can be destructive to relationships. For example, it’s not okay to hit or call names when you’re angry, but it’s okay to say, “Mommy, I’m mad at you!” The best way to calm angry children is to let them know that you understand that they are upset, especially if you can do it in a calm and sympathetic voice. Teachers can do the same when they see kids who are misbehaving. Think of your efforts to help kids be kinder and more empathetic as building their emotional intelligence. Kids who feel understood are less likely to be cruel to others.

Another way to teach kids to be empathetic is to read books together or watch movies or shows together. During parts that involve positive or negative behaviors, ask your kids what they think of the behavior they are seeing, why they think someone may have acted the way they did, and what better ways there might be of handling these situations. This helps kids identify feelings in others and learn healthy ways of expressing themselves.

Teaching kids to be helpful is another powerful tool. Asking nicely for your child to help and thanking them for it—including explaining the positive impact that their help has on you and your relationship with each other—teaches kids that being helpful makes others happy and helps them feel better about themselves. You can also teach kids to offer to help without being asked. This requires a higher level of caring and observation. Most people appreciate an offer of help. It also builds children’s self-esteem of children when they see positive results.

Sharing is another prosocial behavior to encourage, though in the age of COVID-19, one has to be more careful. Asking if someone wants to play with your toys or have some of your snack shows caring. Offering a guest something to eat or drink when they visit you is another skill that kids can learn.

Bullying has received more attention in recent years. You can help kids be kinder by teaching them how to be upstanders. For example, speaking up for a child who is being teased or bullied can go a long way toward effecting positive change. Going up to a child who is sitting alone at lunch and asking if they would like company or to join your table can make a big difference in the life of someone who is ignored for being different or unpopular or who is too shy to ask to sit with others.

Stress levels are higher than ever with the combination of COVID-19, the economic fallout from quarantine and social distancing, distance learning for most students, protests across the country, and the upcoming election in a divided country. Perhaps now more than ever we need to make room for kindness, tolerance, and understanding.

Dr. James J. CristAuthor James Crist is a psychologist specializing in children with ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders. He is the clinical director and a staff psychologist at the Child and Family Counseling Center in Woodbridge, Virginia, where he provides psychological testing and individual, couples, and family psychotherapy for children, adolescents, and adults. Visit his website at jamesjcrist.com.

Free Spirit books by James Crist:

SiblingsThe Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends WhatToDoWhenYou'reScaredAndWorriedWhat to Do When You’re Cranky & Blue


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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The Summer’s Blockbuster Horror Film: Virtual Learning

By Isaiah Moore

Summer’s Blockbuster Horror Film

Lately I’m reminded of old horror movies, when the monster finally shows itself. In the nick of time, the pursued escape, running and flinging sweat as they look back for the menacing creature. But in some weird twist of fictional magic, the moment they turn the corner, the monster is standing right there. It’s a game of panicked peek-a-boo. What’s even scarier is how the horror of the pursued, panting as if there’s a race to collect oxygen, is diametrically opposed by the calm of the pursuing creature, as if it had just stepped out of a meditation room.

If you’ve ever seen an old horror film, this description has to sound familiar, and you can probably guess what happens next. Before going there, however, try to recall that moment when the two are face-to-face. The pursued character’s anxiety and fear are palpable. I’m sure we all would agree that a situation like this is not wanted in real life. But what if I told you that, whether you wanted it to or not, such a situation has already begun?

Yup, COVID-19 is the monster we’ve been running from, but it seems to be around every corner we turn. Now, we’re facing it head-on. Because of the virus’s unnerving presence, we all have been forced to adjust. The way schools are adjusting is through virtual learning. And after a summer full of constant updates that have forced me to think about what virtual learning will look like this fall, I am not all that against it. I’m ready to face COVID’s residual effect on education. Here’s why.

The Challenge

As a teacher, I love a good challenge. As a matter of fact, three years ago I noticed that my students’ writing scores were extremely low. To be transparent, approximately 40 percent of my students passed the capstone test. I knew that improving my teaching could help more of my students pass this difficult test, so I took on the challenge. Students’ scores on that specific test improved every year, and though COVID halted testing this year, pretests showed my students trending toward an 80 percent pass rate! Of course, it’s not a perfect comparison year to year, since students differ each year, but it speaks to improvement.

I’m expecting that same trajectory with virtual learning. It must also be said that what most of us experienced last spring was not virtual learning; it was emergency learning, an abrupt response to an unexpected event. Though the wrinkles in virtual learning are not all ironed out, I am much more prepared to teach kids via cyberspace this time around. I’m excited to accept the challenge, fix the kinks from last spring, and make this work.

Preparing for the Future

And why not accept the challenge? I’d be foolish to ignore that virtual learning is the wave of the future. Horace Mann, also known as the father of American public school education, once decided to make a change here at home. He traveled to Europe because he admired their leaps in public education. He brought back an idea called the Prussian Industrial Model. It consisted of dividing kids by age, teaching subjects separately, using whole-class instruction, and standardizing education. Different and transformative, the model revolutionized the way America educated its students. Of course, that system remains the status quo for today’s public schools, even though Mann introduced the concept over 175 years ago!

It’s beyond time for change. If schools now going one-to-one with devices is not an indication of this, maybe the increasing use of cloud computing technology, which allows students to access information provided by their teachers anywhere and on any device, (including at home), is. Maybe the recent explosion of social media into educational space is convincing. For emergency learning last spring, I asked my kids to use TikTok to express certain tone words using songs, colors, and actions. They loved it! And that can be done anywhere. Or maybe, just maybe, the fact that virtual reality is currently being fought over by all the big-named tech companies, from Google to Samsung, is an indication that more technology is bound to make its way into the educational realm. Yes, it may still be a ways off, but I’ll prepare by using Nearpod, asking my kids questions mid-lesson, and changing slides on their computers.

New and Exciting Tech Mastery

I know I ended the last section talking about Nearpod, but should virtual reality enter the academic realm, I want in! I’ve been waiting to use technology like that since I was a 10-year-old watching Judy talk to her virtual friends on The Jetsons. It’s been a lifelong dream. Until then, I’ll settle for mastering the exciting technology we have now.

I love using Schoology, an online platform designed much like Facebook. It is the central location for all things “Mr. Moore’s class.” Here, I put student work into organized folders, post videos and updates, and even aggregate data, and I’ve only scratched the surface of its capabilities. I’m looking forward to constructing virtual writing portfolios with kids this school year.

I also can’t wait to use Loom. Essentially it’s a video messaging tool, but I used it for screen sharing and recording. I would go over student essays with the program so students could see and hear my suggestions. For the coming year I am excited about teaching students to use the platform themselves. My hope is that instead of them turning in drafts of essays they write, they’ll turn in the initial draft with suggestions, and will record themselves revising their own papers. You heard me right. I don’t want the actual essays, just videos of students going over theirs. Can you imagine their excitement when I ask them simply for a video for homework? Joke’s on them! I’ll be getting them to do the impossible—look over prior work. That lays the foundation for developing superb revising skills.

More Focus on Student Needs

For students who are struggling, I’ll have the ability to really help them. Of course, schools preach small groups, and over the years, I’ve developed some skill in conducting them. But even the best educators struggle to use small groups as much as needed in classes brimming with 30-plus kids. Modeling a skill, giving students the opportunity to practice the skill, conducting a formative assessment, and then assessing the data from that assessment does not always lend itself to the classroom environment, especially when students get a little giddy and decide to show more “personality” with each other than a teacher would like. Virtual learning will afford me the time and opportunity to move kids into breakout rooms based on their immediate needs. Spending small group time addressing weaknesses will ultimately help improve student performance. That’s all I can ask for.

More Contact with Parents

Actually, I could ask for more: more class participants. However, these wouldn’t be your traditional students, but a more seasoned kind of student, whose intent would be to keep the other students in line. These individuals’ participation in class pays extreme dividends. Who am I talking about, you might wonder. I’m talking about parents. The more parents are involved, the more impactful and effective their students’ education will be. Waterford.org says, “Students with engaged parents don’t just have high test scores: their attendance, self-esteem, and graduation rate rise too. Parent-teacher relationships are more than an optional classroom benefit. They are key for helping students on a personal and classroom level reach their academic potential.” My goal as an educator isn’t just to create successful students, but to create successful communities. There is absolutely no better way to do that than by creating a space where success is shared between all parties: school, parents, and community.

Though the school year has just begun, my outlook is this: the pandemic has caused an emotional stir equivalent to Stephen King’s masterpiece It, but “it” won’t shake me. (“It” means virtual learning, in case you didn’t get it.) I’m keeping a positive mindset and deciding that it will go well! I’m eager to teach and be taught; that’s what teaching is anyway, right?

Isaiah MooreIsaiah Moore is an eighth-grade English teacher in Virginia Beach who’s had the pleasure of speaking to crowds of over 1,000 but still becomes nervous when conducting a 45 minute session for 30 students. (Don’t worry, he doesn’t show it.) An Albert Einstein quote guides his life: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.” Through word and action, this quote was taught to him by four Black male teachers in high school. Because of their impact, he decided to pursue education in hopes of impacting others the same way. To do so, he attended Morehouse College and became an Oprah Scholar while receiving his undergraduate degree in English. Afterward, he obtained his Master’s of Arts in Education from the College of William and Mary’s School of Education. Isaiah believes that education should be relevant, so he prides himself on developing lessons that incorporate real-world topics. This shows students their education extends beyond the four walls of his classroom. When Isaiah’s students apply these concepts to their daily lives, it is at this point that he sees his value. Here is where he becomes a man of success. Isaiah writes about his daily life in the classroom at his blog, Running Thoughts . . . Can’t Let Them Get Away.


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FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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8 Ways to Help Teens Take Local Action on Global Youth Representation Issues

This post was originally published January 22, 2018.

Adapted from The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis.

8 Ways to Help Teens Take Local Action on Global Youth Representation IssuesTeens are more civically engaged than ever, according to this 2017 study. The 2020 general election presents an opportunity for teens to get involved, even if they can’t yet vote. Share this list with the teens in your life to help them take action.

1. Speak on an Issue in Committee
Laws are often discussed in local government committees before coming up for vote. This is usually a stage at which the public can testify about the effects an initiative might have on their lives. Contact local officials to learn how you can get on the agenda to speak at these committee meetings.

2. Get Involved in Rule-Making That Affects You
School and community groups sometimes create rules with no input from the people actually affected by the policies, such as you. You might take on issues such as school suspension, curfews, or regulations for participating in extracurricular activities. Present information and views at meetings, in a student magazine, or on a website.

3. Get Out the Vote
Depending on your age and where you live, you may or may not be able to vote in local, regional, or national elections. But you can still participate. Encourage your eligible family members, friends, and neighbors to vote. Join or form a campaign to get people involved in the political process. Remember, no vote is no voice.

4. Serve as a Volunteer in Your Government
Many times, local government is understaffed (and underfunded), which means that intern or assistant positions may be available. Contact your local government offices to inquire about programs for teens. You’ll learn a lot about how your local government works—and you might even help it work better.

5. Cast a Practice Ballot
If you live in the United States and are not yet of voting age, you may still be able to cast a ballot on election day. Your vote won’t affect election outcomes, but you will learn more about participating in the democratic process. Visit the Kids Voting website to see how you can join or start a local program.

6. Know the Issues
Making a difference in government starts with knowing about the issues facing your community. Read newspapers and newsletters, follow current-events websites, and attend local council meetings. Once you’re up-to-date, voice your views on important topics by circulating petitions, writing letters to the editor, or starting school discussion groups.

7. Explore Opportunities for Youth Courts
Youth courts give minors in the United States the opportunity to be tried by peers. Young offenders are often punished through mandatory community service, but they also receive the chance to amend their behavior and clear their records. Peers serve as jurors, attorneys, and judges. Learn more about the Federal Youth Court Program here.

8. Join Your School Board or Student Government
Many school boards in the United States include high school students as representatives who fill an advisory role. Like those involved in student government, these young people are sometimes elected by peers. Take advantage of these opportunities to make sure students interests are being considered in your district and at your school.

For more ideas on ways teens can take local—and global—action on issues, check out The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara Lewis.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


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