Stephanie Roberson is the English Language Learners teacher at Wydown Middle School. Roberson coaches volleyball, basketball and heads a step team. She also helps out with the middle school’s Social Justice Club.
What are you involved in? We do a social justice student group … We are allowing kids to understand that no matter who you are or what you look like everybody is experiencing power and powerlessness. We have a lot of kids in this building that the only narrative that they ever get for a person of color or a person of another sexuality is the boot on your back that society has placed. There is so much more to it than that. For example, the African diaspora: we learn of so many mountain tops. That is important too, but there is so much more to it. Being an ally is identifying places where you can be of service.
What is an important quality for a leader? One of the most important things that we can do for our students is listen. We need to listen and be able to put ourselves in situations where we can see ourselves as learners too. Sometimes it’s important for kids to understand that we value them not just as kids, but as people. We have really incredible people at this school: young men and women who I am so excited to know.
How do you instill in your own students a sense of leadership? I talk a lot about power and powerlessness. It is never my job to take away your struggle. When somebody is struggling through something or having a hard time with a kid it is so important that instead of taking the struggle away and handling it to ask them “How are you going to handle it? That sounds really hard,” or “Let’s talk about how we can approach this.” I think that it’s so important for students to take ownership of their learning and their concept of social justice and social citizenship. If at any point in my day, whether I’m coaching or teaching, I am doing more talking than listening than it is time to take a step back and rework.
Roberson is one of the 20 people to be profiled in the Globe story, “Profiles in Leadership.” Check out the rest of the website to read about more leaders in the Clayton community.