Archive for December 5th, 2010

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It Takes a Child to Raise a Whole Village

December 5, 2010

Interesting article

I took advantage of the day after Thanksgiving, a vacation day, to do some cleaning out. Boxes of “stuff” are starting to back up on me. Maybe it was that trip this summer, packing up my 92 year old mother’s home, and moving 20 boxes of her photographs and scrapbooks to my home that have given me a little push to clean out.

While sifting I came across articles that I had saved, one that I am referencing is from a 1995 report from the Johnson Foundation, Racine, Wisconsin called Wingspread “It Takes a Child to Raise a Whole Village” written by John P. Kretzmann and Paul H. Schmitz. It is a different twist on the topic “It Takes a Village” which many of you probably know of the saying with the African origin. I am going to be using segments of this article (which I couldn’t find online) since the authors encourage readers to share it with others. Even though this article is a bit older it still makes me think.

Certainly since 95 the cliche is not heard as much and more and more people have been rethinking what education is about and the importance of “relationships” for the success of each student. The authors make clear that they believe the cliche is incomplete. In the cliche, adults in the village act to “raise” young people. Young folks are the objects of the action, never the subjects. Hmmmmm…. They go on to say that young people are passive and useless. They are defined as deficient – of knowledge, of skills, of any useful capacities – and relegated with their cohorts to the filling stations we call schools. The assumption is that, magically, at age 18 or 21, young people will emerge from their years of being filled, and re-enter the community as full and useful contributors.

I am not sure I agree that the cliche was interpreted like that by all. However I do agree with them when they discuss the village raising and what it could be. And I think since 95 we have moved towards that but there are still adults who view students in the same manner. Some adults still believe that it is their job to open up the brains of young people and poor knowledge in.  The authors want our young people to be valued by contributing their gifts our communities. In places where young people are active members of the community, those who are engaged in community service and service learning projects, they are anything but passive.

The authors believe that we have lowered our expectations for our young people, that we do to much for them and don’t involve them in the decision making segment of the work. So, if the problem is that there is a disconnect between what adults perceive young people need and what young people really want, no wonder adults have low expectations. In fact, how can any adults know and understand teenagers if they aren’t sitting at the table asking them, involving them in the conversation, listening to what they have to say?

What I ask myself is how far have we moved since 95, that’s 15 years ago? When a teacher sits down to talk to a parent about their son or daughters progress, is the student at the table? Does a teacher punish a student before asking them to discuss the situation? Are teenagers given responsibilities that are realistic to their abilities with a little stretch mixed in?

Below are the “ten commandments” for involving young people in community building shared by the authors:

  1. Always start with the gifts, talents, knowledge, and skills of young people – never with their needs and problems.
  2. Always life up the unique, never the category to which the young person belongs. It is “Frank who sings so well” or “Maria, the great soccer player”, never the at “at-risk youth” or the “pregnant teen.”
  3. Share the conviction that: (a) Every community is filled with useful opportunities for young people to contribute to the community; and (b)There is no community institution or association that can’t find a useful role for young people.
  4. Try to distinguish between real community building work, and games or fakes-because young people know the difference.
  5. Fight-in every way you can-age segregation. Work to overcome the isolation of young people.
  6. Start to get away from the principle of aggregation of people by their emptiness. Don’t put everyone who can’t read together in the same room. It makes no sense.
  7. Move as quickly as possible beyond youth “advisory boards” or councils, especially those boards with only one young person on them.
  8. Cultivate many opportunities for young people to teach and to lead.
  9. Reward and celebrate every creative effort, every contribution made by young people. young people can help take the lead here.
  10. In every way possible, amplify this message to young people: We need you! Our community cannot be strong and complete without you.

Hopefully this gives you something to think about. Do you encourage your students to take on leadership roles in your classrooms? Do you reach out to all your students or just a segment? All students deserve the opportunity to reach their potential!

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Articles

December 5, 2010

Reading on a snowy day

It was so wonderful to wake up to see it snowing yesterday morning and again today with snow on the ground. Not much snow, but enough to put a smile on my face. I thought I’d curl up by the woodstove with the newspaper and a cup of tea but the newspaper hasn’t arrived yet so I promise myself only to take a short time and catch up on email and write a blog post.

Realizing I haven’t posted in two days, oh my gosh, the holiday preparation has taken priority. And oh my gosh again, I found several emails and drafts for blog posts that contain articles that I’ve wanted to share…. this gives me the chance to delete some of the mail AND write a post. Below are articles (and blogs) that you might find interesting….

I hope there is snow where you are this morning! Whether you’re working on grades, budget preparation, baking cookies, making gifts, listening or making music or wherever this morning finds you, that you enjoy the day!

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