Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Students as Change Agents

December 12, 2017 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Education Week‘s Nov. 1 issue struck two resonant notes for me. First was the coverage of Summit High School’s peer-leadership program (“Peers Help 9th Graders Survive Critical Year”). The California high school’s method of pairing freshmen with junior and senior mentors is noteworthy because it’s focused on student-to-student interaction.

The second note of resonance was educator DJ Cashmere’s Commentary, in which he described his journey of self-discovery regarding his lack of racial and cultural sensitivity as a white teacher in a classroom of black students (“Wrestling With Atticus Finch”).

I’m currently reading Christopher Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood ... And the Rest of Y’all Too, which details, in part, Emdin’s analogous search as a teacher of color for personal and pedagogical relevance and connection in an urban school. The two authors’ paths present a vivid parallel: Each discovers, in his own way, that he cannot succeed without a foundational respect for students’ capabilities and the cultural attributes they bring to the schoolhouse.

These stories and programs underscore something profound about efforts to improve high schools: Students (and their cultures) should not merely be objects to change, but agents of change. Enlisting students’ energy, understanding, and idealism can make the difference in whether schools’ change efforts succeed or fail.

A few years ago, journalist Mark Jacobson put it this way, “Youth occurs in a time of its own, immune to criticism from those claiming to have had better youths. ... Every passage to adulthood is a hero’s journey, to be respected, in its own way.” Precious few high school change efforts focus on deep, personal, respectful engagement of students, but most of them should.

James Lerman

Educator

New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2017 edition of Education Week as Students as Change Agents

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Student Achievement Webinar Examining the Evidence: What We’re Learning From the Field About Implementing High-Dosage Tutoring Programs
Tutoring programs have become a leading strategy to address COVID-19 learning loss. What evidence-based principles can district and school leaders draw on to design, implement, measure, and improve high-quality tutoring programs? And what are districts

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)