How student reps will bring the Occupy Movement into the classroom

By | January 1, 2012

Along with the occupy wall street’s movement to redistribute wealth and encourage some serious accountability, the RESISTANCE (a group of youth demanding educational reform )is now a new player in the game demanding more from educators and those who care about how children are educated.

A major suggestion that I am completely supportive of is the mandated five student representation on the community board.

Having worked on committees with an assortment of people, it makes sense to have a person who has the most to gain in a given situation to be able to have a say in how things are facilitated. It has always struck me as odd when the individuals who are the most affected by decisions are not allowed to voice their opinions and determine the outcome of policies.

More responsibility given and accepted by young people has far reaching and innumerable benefits.

Children, like everyone else, respond well when given responsibility and expectations are made clear and measurable.

As an instructor of a vivacious and challenging gifted group of fourth graders in the Bronx, I witnessed how assigning an increasingly more demanding and challenging set of responsibilites rooted out foolishness and encouraged a better type of well thought out and team oriented productive behavior.

Ray, who often terrorized the other children, began enjoying school and looked forward to positively affecting the class environment. He began to understand that his behavior determined how and when class time would be utilized.

Making the connection between behavior and its results was not taught directly but experienced holistically.

Much like the governing body of school culture, my students learned to make better decisions when they could see the immediate and sometimes long rage results of their choices. Along with the very visible understanding and clarity that goes with being given more responsibility, pride also becomes one the things that also positively affects classroom culture and has far reaching results.

When addressing students who had been given a specific task, it was always apparent that their actions could jeopardize their current positions resulting in reassignment.

In other words, we were teaching via example and personal experience what is means to complete something.

Young people need to see adults interact in the world in ways that indicate the committment to “completion”. By completion I am referring to fulfilling any and all obligations they have agreed to regardless of how they “feel” about it or whether or not they have changed their mind.

Completion gives individuals a sense that they have “taken care of business” and made a difference because something has changed because of their input.

As an educator, I am always looking for ways to continue a vigorous learning process via action and the written word. What better way to instruct students in the brilliance and well thought out democratic process than being elected to represent their fellow students.

This excitement is contagious and will engender a certain passion for learning and further development via the concept of democracy.

Student reps will enjoy school because they now have a serious accountable reason for being there.

One thought on “How student reps will bring the Occupy Movement into the classroom

  1. Nick Krayger

    Anthony- good thoughts. Here are a few things I can add from my experience: 1. Access is very important to all of us in America today. The higher the level of access, the happier most people are. Why shouldn’t schools (many who are now using PBS or PBIS – Positive Behavior Support Systems) give power to the students in way of access. Meaning, the more positive the behaviors, the more access a student has. 2. This can be done by way of student participants on School Wide Committees for change. As a principal, I had key members of the staff, administration AND the student body on the committees. At first, they were handpicked by me. Why? Because if I am appropriately attuned to my students, I will know who my positive and my negative leaders are. We need all of them to make change happen. 3. The idea of an Occupy classrooms concept in schools is good, if it teaches responsibility. If it teaches anything like entitlement, as I am sure each educator knows, this is rampant. We don’t need to teach students that they should expect things from society. The teachers? Yes. School leaders? Yes. A good example is when I acted as principal in one special school, a way I used to decrease inappropriate behavior from my high school students was to allow them to get up and leave a classroom where a teacher was unprepared, come to my office or find me wherever I was, and bring me- by hand- to the classroom of the unprepared teacher. It happened over 3 years about 5x, and all of those teachers became better for it. When students know they are entitled to an education (not necessarily rules and regs they like), and you stand WITH them and demand it- from each other- change does occur. I could go on for a list of 1000 but you get my gist. Good start to a hot topic!

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