Kids are kids as they’ve always been. It’s the laws and the instruction that has changed. We are trying to teach kids the same way we’ve been doing it for the last century while everything else around us has changed. We have an 8 hour school day that mirrors the factory work day. We have dress codes coupled with rules against tattoos and piercings that limit individual expression. We have rules that send kids to ISS for using language we find objectionable that they don’t know is wrong because it’s all they hear in their music, in their homes, and in their free time.
What can we do to decrease these clashes between students, teachers, and administrators that are rooted in culture and class conflict? Maybe each of us, as teachers, can give our students more freedom to select the things they care about and help them find the TEKs (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) around it. Project based learning has its merits if it can be deployed properly. What about easing some of the forced conformity we impose on our students? We could encourage them to make informed and professional dress and body modification choices by explaining to them the potential impacts of their choices of expression. There is potential here to reduce discipline issues that result from the natural teenage instinct to rebel against authority. This all sounds good, but there are drawbacks.
Culturally Responsive Teaching is popular in Ed Reform circles, but our world is not. I understand the “every movement starts with a small step” attitude, but are we doing our students any favors by letting them essentially make their own rules and reinforce the potentially detrimental aspects of their culture? Should individuality be protected above all else? The things we see on a daily basis and let slide because they are so frequent and uncontrollable won’t be tolerated outside of our school. The reason some leave, go to college, drop out and come right back also comes from this cultural conflict.
We love our kids, respect them as people, and believe in them without wavering, for the most part. The rest of the world looks upon our students with confusion, disdain, and even disgust. People outside our classrooms will never understand the beauty and potential of our students the way we do, but they won’t care and they don’t have to because our communities aren’t the ones voting, funding, or making decisions. It’s our job to build our students up until they are ready to compete. That starts with a little compassion and understanding: Culturally Responsive Teaching.