My name is Ashley and I am a first year teacher in Durham, North Carolina. Since going vegetarian, I have become increasingly passionate about animal rights and sharing all that I am learning with others. Living "The Kind Life" is now an integral part of who I am, and I often wonder how I ate meat so thoughtlessly for so many years.
Though I am a teacher of Language Arts, my job entails much more than lessons on literacy and literature. We teachers are in a unique position to touch the lives of so many young people, so I have tried to be very aware of the kinds of messages I send my students, through my words and my actions. My students know that I am a vegetarian, as I am very open about something that is so close to my heart, but never have I stressed (or even really discussed) my reasons for being a vegetarian. However, it disheartens me how vehemently many of my students are against vegetarianism. Many of the kids "eww"-ed and "gross!!"-ed when I mentioned veggie burgers, and one even said that "meat makes the world go 'round."
I've been thinking about this for a while now, and while I know it would perhaps be unprofessional of me to push my feelings about animal rights on my students, I could create an opportunity to share with them the complications that come with the meat and dairy industry, as well as the array of other environmental problems that are so often ignored. In our curriculum we are required to teach a unit on informational text, and I plan to theme mine on the environment, including texts dealing with animal rights. I am so excited to begin this unit with my students, and it is my hope that animal rights issues will gain the same prominence in education as has "going green" efforts.
What grade level do you teach? You just need to be hyper-aware of how you present things. You might be able to do it, but it will require a great deal of creativity on your part, to not upset parents (in terms of the animal portion, I think you can totally defend the environmental portion, but people can get crazy over the animal part). I say this only because I used to teach, and part of the reason I left was that my own spirit was being destroyed after a while and I felt like I wasn't making a difference anymore. I'm far too liberal to teach where I was, facing all the negativity towards liberal ideals that kids would say, of course only repeating what they had heard their parents say. But, depending on where you live, what age the kids are, and how you present things, you might be able to get away with it, and I hope you can find a way!
I teach 8th grade. I'm hoping to very subtly integrate texts dealing with vegetarianism into a slew of other ones about other environmental issues. Nothing too extreme, just some things here and there to get the kids thinking. I used some vegetarian articles during my student teaching with high school seniors to teach some of the facets of research such as paraphrasing and bias, and the response was really interesting. I did my student teaching at a rural school in North Carolina that is really big in agriculture; however, many of the students had little understanding of vegetarianism, let alone veganism, so as a class we ended up having a few really great discussions. I don't ever want to be pushy with students about my personal feelings and opinions, but I do think it's important to let them know, "Hey, this is out there." Just getting a few to think twice about what they consume has been rewarding, as some interested students have approached me with all kinds of questions about my veggie lifestyle.
Eighth grade could be a good age to try it, kids are starting to become more socially aware and some can ask questions that push the boundaries of what they know. That's great that you've tried it before, much better than attempting it for the first time ever with eighth graders. I'd be interested to hear their reactions.
I teach grades 7 - 12 and my students find it hilarious that I do not eat meat, I am vego, not vegan. They are puzzled as to what I eat and I have explained to them the reason for me not eating meat, it is the cruelty aspect, but red meat also makes me quite ill. When they ask about particular things I tell them, I also have told them that if they are interested in the cruel treatment of animals then they need to educate themselves about organic / free range v non organic and free range meats if they feel that vegetarianism is not for them.
For those few who are interested in persuing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle I have told them to speak with their parents about it. I also suggested that they do their research in terms of their dietary requirements, even seeking out help from a nutritionalist before embarking on such a change.
Many of my students believe I have just eliminated meat and now eat only pumpkin and potato every night! Tofu scares the heck out of them.
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