The term “Upstander” is a fairly recent addition to the dictionary. It describes a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause; particularly, someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied. At Watchung Hills Regional High School, kids are learning how to become upstanders thanks to the school’s Diversity Club; as well as the creative lesson plan two former students came up with.
Mary Sok and Jamie Lott-Jones are world history teachers and Diversity Club co-advisors at Watchung Hills Regional High School. In order to foster a safer learning environment for students, the pair use a unique curriculum. During an episode of Caucus: New Jersey with Steve Adubato, Sok and Lott-Jones explain how it all started.
Watchung Hill Regional High School is Creating a Generation of Upstanders
The duo have 15 years of experience working together. When Lott-Jones first got to Watchung, she took over the Diversity Club. That’s when she made the decision to revamp the lesson plan.
“[For the club,] we need to find ways to empower our kids to speak up,” Lott-Jones tells Adubato. “We started an initiative where we actually created a slogan that our kids use, which is ‘Speak up. Stand up. Stop hate.’”
One of the club’s newest lessons came after a thoughtful student brought up a particular issue that was bothering her. After hearing some worrying Muslim stereotypes from fellow students, she had an idea. “She came to us one day and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to create a lesson. Could we teach it in some of the freshman classes?’” Sok recalls.
The lesson turned out to be a huge success, creating a positive atmosphere where students learn cultural sensitivity.