Chicago kids can be a force for justice, but they’re not always getting it
Posted On July 12, 2021
By JENNIFER MARTIN CHAPMAN/THE VERGE By a team of researchers and community members, we’re bringing Chicago’s kids back into the mainstream, and changing the way they’re viewed.
It’s an ambitious plan that we’ve been working on for years and one that’s only just beginning.
We call it “The Journey.”
Here’s what you need to know.
THE JOURNEY 1.
The Journey is about the people at the heart of the story, who are in the dark.
That’s why the team at the Institute for Research in Education, a think tank focused on education, has created The Journey, a new, all-inclusive interactive website, designed to bridge the gap between people who want to see change and people who are trying to keep up.
The goal is to empower young people to make their voices heard in the public sphere, even if that means taking on a small role in the process.
“We wanted to give kids the opportunity to take on larger roles in the development of change,” says Alexandra Bower, who’s lead designer on The Journey.
“That means making sure they’re part of the conversation, and making sure the conversation is about them.”
In doing so, The Journey will help the public and teachers become better at connecting with kids.
As kids learn more about the issues they care about, they’ll be able to be more informed about the policies that they support and more involved in shaping the outcomes they want.
“There are going to be different kinds of voices out there, so we want to give the kids a voice, a voice that’s in the middle,” Bower says.
The new website will help teachers and students become better allies.
The Institute for Study of Education and Research (ISEER) at Illinois State University in Urbana is partnering with Chicago Public Schools to develop a website that will help Chicago teachers and student leaders learn about the challenges facing the city.
“The hope is that The Journey can help people in the city and the region understand the importance of the role we play in these issues,” says Jody Miller, who is the institute’s associate director for research.
“It’s really about teaching kids to see their own struggles and their own power.”
The website will include resources that will give educators a sense of what the city faces in these types of issues, and provide resources that can be used to educate kids about the needs of other communities.
It’ll make teachers and kids more aware of how their voices are being heard.
The Chicago Teachers Union has a website, TeachTU, that provides teachers and other school employees with a central resource that they can use to educate students about the impact of teachers’ demands on schools.
The website includes a “who we are” section where teachers can talk about their work and learn about how they’re being affected.
It also includes resources that teachers can use in the classroom to encourage students to ask questions about their school.
It could lead to real change.
Bower and Miller say the Journey is a start, but there are still a few steps left before The Journey becomes a reality.
The site will be designed in such a way that it can be accessed by anyone in the Chicago area, but it will have a specific focus on teachers.
Bowers hopes that teachers will use the new website to find other teachers who might be interested in working with them.
“If we can create a website for teachers, then that could be an avenue for them to say, ‘Hey, let’s get together and work together,'” she says.
“But we need to be able also to get that teachers together in the community.
It has to be a safe space.
If the teachers aren’t comfortable there, they don’t want to be working together, then they’re going to stay home.”
There’s still a long way to go.
Boulware says that the team is also working to figure out the best way to reach more students, so the site will have more options to help educators better serve students.
In addition, the team will continue to monitor how The Journey goes and make adjustments in the future.
And as we learn more, BoulWare says, she hopes that the Journey will make a big difference for the students it aims to educate.
“In the long run, The Way is going to have the power to change the way that kids and educators are thinking about these kinds of issues,” she says, “because they’re more likely to come to a place where they’re empowered to be themselves.”
The Journey launched this month.
To learn more: Contact Jody Pomerantz at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @jodypomeranz.
Related: The ‘Where Are They Now’ tour: A map of where Chicago’s homeless youth live