Recently, Edweek published an article about how difficult it can be for teachers to manage classrooms. In the article, the author talks about how teachers attribute student misbehavior to troubled families, inconsistent administration, and poverty to name a few. The goal of course was to talk about how suspensions accelerate students along the school to prison pipeline and we have to disrupt that with things like restorative practices.
The Current Situation:
The national conversation is swirling with ideas for supporting students in poverty. We are learning more and more about ways to intervene for students who have additional support needs and keep from pushing students out of the classroom. The thing is that while we are having conversation, true systems wide change has been slow in coming. Teachers feel unheard in classrooms that are outsized and under resourced. While no one would argue that restorative practices are not helpful with students, but they do require training and a school wide commitment to practice them with fidelity. In order for students to benefit from all of this adult talk, we must pair it with action.
We Need a Paradigm Shift:
We must remember our students are humans and so are we. As humans, we are prone to making mistakes and have to work at sharing what makes us vulnerable. That means in order for a classroom to “work” and both students and teachers to feel “seen” teachers must create an environment where it is safe to be authentic. The kind of relationship building needed to disrupt pipelines and keep teachers (not to mention students) in classrooms has to be built intentionally.
How to Create Change
- Be vulnerable. If you need any more convincing about vulnerability, its purpose, or its power take a look at this TED Talk by Dr. Brene Brown. Students need to see their teachers as real people so they know it is safe for them to be real people as well.
2. See your students as valuable people. At this point, we understand that if we are to make inroads with students, we need to step outside of our personal comfort zones and value what they value. We also have to convey that value in a way that students view as authentic. For ideas on how to do that check out this TED Talk from Dr. Chris Emdin on the power of hip hop culture in education. While the genre of choice might not apply to your students, the principles do.
3. Be flexible in your approach. Classrooms look different teacher to teacher year to year and sometimes day to day. Be willing to meet your students where they are even if it means leaving your personal instructional comfort zone. Your kids need as much exposure as they can to as many ideas as possible. We can never be sure which one may be the one that changes their outlook of themselves and the world.