The Healthy Relationship Statements are the heart of Power Up, Speak Out!. The first statement reads, “I get to be myself”. This is what we deserve in a healthy relationship: we deserve to get to be ourselves. What it means to be yourself is going to look different for every person. For some people this might mean feeling free to dye their hair blue, or attend a mosque, or speak a language other than English. It might mean enjoying classical music, hard rock, or K-pop. Being yourself could include your sexual orientation, your race, gender, ethnicity, heritage and family values. It includes your likes and dislikes, your favorite pizza toppings, your clothing style and so much more. In a healthy relationship, we get to be ourselves without feeling judged or shamed or put-down. 

In the article, “Creating a Learning Environment Where All Kids Feel Valued”, found in Edutopia, educator, Shana White, mirrors our language with a common belief that identity plays a vital role in our relationships and is a necessary and important topic to teach in the classrooms. Being able to freely express our identities and be accepted for who we are helps students feel valued and heard in the classroom and in their relationships. 

At a bare minimum, my job as a teacher is to create a learning environment where all kids feel valued, safe, and eager to learn from everyone in the room. –Shana White

Ms. White created a 5-step lesson plan for her middle school health class. The lessons were intended to help create an inclusive classroom where everyone felt safe, valued and respected. The 5 activities included: “What is Identity”, “Probing Deeper”, “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen”, “How is Identity Formed”, and “Identity Portraits”. 

Each activity instilled the importance of identity in our relationships and classroom. The students learned what identity is, discovered what they identify with, and learned to recognize and respect the identities of others. 

“Diversity is our strength” cannot really be true unless individuals with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences are earnestly valued, humanized, and respected. -Shana White

To learn more about Ms White’s lesson plan and how you can incorporate these activities in your classroom, read her article in the online publication, Edutopia

Creating a Learning Environment Where All Kids Feel Valued
-A five-step exercise on identity and belonging helps middle school students appreciate differences—in themselves and in their peers.        By Shana V. White