Child and youth advocates, desiring a more fair, equitable and democratic society

Representing a youth advocate is something I have always wanted for myself.  As I reflect on previous thought about the habit of mind, I notice that I have always wanted to create a place where students feel comfortable and can express their thoughts, as I see in a journal from Education 373.  I wrote that through my time as an education student I have become “conscious of how I make others feel in discussions and hope to create a comfortable and empowering atmosphere with classroom discussions.” Since I wrote that journal, my wants have not changed.  I still hope to achieve all of those things for my students in my future classroom but I now have a more realistic understanding of the goal.

I went into student teaching thinking all of the above but I was quickly taught that creating the kind of environment I desired to have was not as easy as I hoped.  One of my classes was very willing to have conversations but as soon as someone said something another student disagreed with or something another student deemed unintelligent, deprecation began.  Although students may have felt as though speaking and presenting ideas was good, they no longer were willing to participate after being made fun of.  I quickly stepped in and had a conversation with the students but the negative behavior did not stop.  I then had students make some classroom rules for discussions hoping that their participation in the creation of the environment would obliterate the rude and hurtful comments.  It took some time for students to follow the rules, but I stood firm in my goal to be an advocate for all my students and their opinions.  Soon the negative comments stopped and the class was able to carry on some great conversations about the literature.  I am glad that I was able to retain some control over the environment I have always wanted to have in my classroom, but I wish that certain behaviors had not happened to begin with.

One of the first things I will do when I have a classroom is set rules for discussion as I did in student teaching.  The difference, though, is that I will set the rules before any discussion takes place to create a fair society within the classroom from day one instead of trying to replace a negative environment.  It is much more difficult to undo student behavior and demand new behavior than to set expectations from the beginning.  I am confident that by setting rules and expectations with my students at the beginning of the school year will enable me to continue to be a youth advocate and create the safe and empowering class atmosphere I have always desired to create.

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