Shalaby encourages teachers to try new models of power that feel fair and democratic. For example, teachers may choose to do not expel the children class when they misbehave.
“Give kids practice of the issues that arise when you really try to care for each person without removing people from your space,” Shalaby said. Children who break the rules will also develop the skills to take responsibility. “We are all human beings in this project together and in this space together, and we have to figure out how to do this for 180 days.”
2. Do I serve children with a comprehensive set of rules that eliminate potential conflict, harm, and drama?
Sometimes rules are used to anticipate any potential problems that may arise in class. But disagreements and conflicts can be generative for children and in the future when they are adults.
“Solving all the problems robs children of the opportunity to practice problem solving,” Shalaby said. When teachers eliminate the possibility of conflict, children don’t learn the essential basics, she said. For example, students may find it difficult to work well in small groups without an adult because they lack the skills to come up with solutions on their own.
“Kids grow up to understand that the person in power can do it,” Shalaby said.
While it may seem harder to deal with issues collaboratively than to decide and enforce the rules, Shalaby said it takes longer in the long run to constantly redirect children when they don’t comply.
3. If a student asks “Why?” will your reason for having this policy stand up to the particularly intelligent and relentless scrutiny of more than 30 young people collectively seeking freedom?
Saying “because I said so” can lead to the “nightmare of an unwinnable power struggle” against students, Shalaby said. And it’s not worth it.
“The biggest way to waste time in classrooms is power struggles,” she said. “It’s exhausting. It drives teachers out of our profession. It drives children out of school.
4. Does this class rule only exist because I have a personal pet peeve?
Teachers can tell students that a rule is based on a personal pet peeve, but they must be prepared to accommodate everyone else’s pet pegs, because teachers are just another member of the community of class, Shalaby said.
It’s hard for students and teachers to make room for each person’s unique quirks when everyone is used to deferring to one teacher. Students discover how to deal with the tensions and questions that arise when trying to make everyone feel like they belong.
“It’s the space and time to develop skills around hurting, how we treat each other, how and if we care for each other and what the real challenges are in balancing what I have need versus what a band needs,” Shalaby said. “These are really difficult democratic problems that children need many years of practice with.”
5. Are my actions based on the culture of safety or control?
A common misconception is that more rules make classrooms safer, according to Shalaby.
“These are efforts to try to prevent bad things from happening by exercising more control over human beings, by limiting more and more their rights so that they can be trusted,” he said. she stated.
Shalaby admits that security and control are touchy topics these days in light of the recent school shootings. In response, schools monitor student movement around campus, limit what they are allowed to bring to school and even restrict what they are allowed to wear.
Instead of relying on increased security to keep students safe, Shalaby points out to research claiming that young people are less likely to commit acts of violence in the community when they participate in prosocial activities such as mentoring, arts programs and after-school sports. Providing access to practices and activities that promote belonging increases safety without relying on rules to control student bodies and behavior.
But/and a key follow-up: “Am I defining security in a way that requires control or freedom?”
Security results from radical mutual care and responsibly practiced freedom. It is NOT “I do what I want”. It can be understood as a collective responsibility and not as an individual right. pic.twitter.com/In25DpKstz
—Carla Shalaby (@CarlaShalaby) August 7, 2022
6. Do I define safety in a way that requires control or freedom?
When schools use restrictive regulations, security and surveillance to make schools safer, they operate on the idea that depriving students of autonomy will lead to safety. According to Shalaby, freedom is an essential element of security.
“Security is the responsible practice of freedom,” she said. “In order to learn to do this, students must practice being accountable to others.”
If the rules are too restrictive, the pupils do not have the possibility of making decisions to protect each other. Instead of relying on restrictions as a means of safety, Shalaby recommends a “We keep ourselves safe” mentality. “We view our actions in terms of how they affect and impact others. We learn to take responsibility for the harm we cause and to make it right. These are the things that increase our security.
7. Does the application of this rule oblige me to behave like a policeman or an educator?
If a student is on the phone during class, a teacher can tell the student to put the phone away or even confiscate the phone. And they will probably have to do this several times a week. “It’s the only policy that no matter how hard they enforce it, kids break the rule,” Shalaby said.
Recent studies show that the temptation to look mobile phone screens are powerful for young peoplewho can get hundreds of notifications in a school day. Instead of getting involved in a power struggle with her students to control their phone use, she makes it a conversation.
“Nobody tells me when or how I’m allowed to use my phone,” Shalaby said of the complex decisions she has to make about using her phone as an adult outside of school. “What is the real and authentic opportunity to teach and learn about freedom? »
She moves away from trying to get rid of phones altogether to help students make safe and healthy decisions about screen time and responsible phone use. They can discuss how to change settings to receive fewer notifications, understand the addictive nature of phones, and how their phone use can impact other learners.
8. Why am I teaching?
Teachers make decisions that correspond to the reason for which they teach.
“If my reason for teaching is to provide instruction in a content area, then nothing else will matter,” Shalaby said. “If the reason I teach is because I want a safer, freer and more beautiful world than the one we have now and I believe in young people as guardians of that possible future, then I will make different gestures in each of my days as a teacher.
Historically, educators have played an important role in liberation movements and at the forefront of struggles. They registered voters, promoted literacy campaigns and organized students to civil rights activist. Teachers today can continue the work of teachers who came before them and give students the opportunities and skills to practice and build a better world, Shalaby said.
At the same time, it’s hard to be a teacher right now.
“Teachers are abused, abused, looked down upon and disengaged, so asking people why they are teaching now is such a difficult and painful question,” Shalaby said.
Envisioning a new world with the students keeps her from feeling demoralized, as she actively works towards a future where everyone, including teachers, is valued.