After listening to another episode of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, my newest Potter addiction, I’m moved to consider the ways in which each of us encourage rule breaking for the sake of institutional change and self-betterment.
In my first job, in the inner city of NYC, I watched many of my students passively allow folks who didn’t know or understand their circumstances control and label them in really unfair ways. Being young and easily moved on their behalf, after reading an article in the newspaper that called them all “thugs”, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore.
Eagerly, I clipped the article from the paper and distributed it to my students, encouraging them to get angry and fight back, but not with their fists, with their accomplishments.
Every child has the capacity to be and do something amazing and a moment that really resonated from the podcast this week was this idea that Hogwarts was purposefully tolerant of particular rebellious behaviors by Peeves the Poltergeist and many students who probably would have been expelled many times over like the Weasley twins.
Working in an educational system, we must allow students to take big risks, even rebel against the rules where necessary especially if it means learning a bigger lesson.
Teachers do this as well.
There are many rules in place for teachers to keep students and themselves safe, but many of them are antiquated or unnecessary. For example, many schools frown on the use of cell phones in the classroom as they see these devices as disruptive or misplaced in a school setting. However, smart phones are powerful tools that kids already have an know how to use, so why not cultivate a new way of using this powerful tool to help them learn.
Despite having rules against using personal technology, I have always ascribed to trusting students with their own devices. Does that mean that some don’t misuse them? No, they do, just like adults, but most and even the ones who take short breaks do use them appropriately and later remind me that they wouldn’t have thought to use their phones in this way. So even though students technically aren’t allowed to use their devices, we circumvent the system for the greater good of learning.
Schools aren’t only about academic learning though. They are social experiences that allow all people to grow as individuals in a plethora of situations. We can’t diminish the need for healthy rebellion as these common causes also bring unlikely people together.
Whether in a club or on a school newspaper looking to raise awareness about perceived injustice, students have the power to take action and the first amendment supports their right to do so. We must continually engage students in meaningful dialogue that encourages them to take big risks that can can potentially change the way the system runs. At the very least we need to help them find that thing that inspires them to want to make change by not being afraid to do it ourselves.
I’ve always been one to try to be the voice of my kids whether in my first job or now as I’m always looking for better ways for schools to function (assessment, scheduling, homework, etc). There is much that needs changing and once we get in touch with our inner rebel, the more likely we are to rock the boat.
What are you willing to fight for in the name of change? Please share
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.