After listening to another episode of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, my newest Potter addiction, I'm moved to consider how each of us encourages 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 to control and label them unfairly. 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. A moment that resonated from the podcast this week was 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 and even rebel against the rules where necessary, especially if it means learning a bigger lesson.
Teachers do this as well.
There are many rules for teachers to keep students and themselves safe, but many are antiquated or unnecessary. For example, many schools frown on using cell phones in the classroom as they see these devices as disruptive or misplaced in a school setting.
However, smartphones are powerful tools kids already know how to use, so why not cultivate a new way of using this 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 those who take short breaks, use them appropriately and later remind me that they wouldn't have thought to use their phones 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 .a school newspaper looking to raise awareness about perceived injustice, students can 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 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 a 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, we are more likely to rock the boat.
What are you willing to fight for in the name of change? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in September 2016