This week was extremely thought provoking for a variety of reasons. I was completely stumped with the concept of agency – who has it, who can use it? When can they use it? These questions are certainly not easy to answer at the best of times, let alone when you are searching for a specific definition of agency that encompasses the true meaning of the word for ourselves and our students. So, from what I could find as a proper definition on dictionary.com, agency is, “a thing or person that acts to produce a particular result.” At it’s root, I suppose that is exactly what it is – someone fighting to get what they want, after deciding that, that is what they want. Children try and do this, adults try and do this and I still don’t really know if we have agency at all…we always have some kind of higher up, whether that is a physical higher up like a boss, parent, teacher, etc. or a metaphysical higher up that you choose to subscribe to, and therefore, are we really ever free to act how we might without those constraints? Another piece I liked about this definition was that it encompassed a “thing” as well as a person. I was very intrigued by the concept that animals, plants and landscapes all have agency. For sake of the argument, I am on the side that they do. I don’t know if plants and landscapes are acting intentionally to produce a particular result, however, once the powers that be start those changes in motion, whatever the result will be…will be. The example I gave in class was that if the polar ice cap is melting and breaking off, there is nothing we could do to stop it – regardless of the fact that we know it will cause damage. I think in some ways, this ties directly into the “School to Prison Pipeline” idea. The powers that be have set those kids in motion, and they sometimes feel that whatever will be will be, regardless of how they act because their agency is gone and people already have preconceived notions about who they are what they are capable of. The concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, why do better when no one expects anything otherwise. It’s truth in many communities, but so heartbreaking.
This week I really feel like it comes back to relationships and how important relationships are to our students and their success. Government cuts budgets, we can’t offer what kids need, it destroys relationships. Police and heavy security are present in our schools, it shows we don’t trust our kids, it destroys relationships…with the police too! We discredit the importance of children’s home lives, the importance of supporting families and parents and it destroys relationships. As it mentions in the video, we are setting our students up for failure with bad environments, unclean schools and lack of nutrition in our buildings, I would argue lack of trust as well. Although the School to Prison Pipeline video is featuring students from the United States, there are so many parallels to our students here in Regina. Kids are building records in schools that will follow them the rest of their lives, making it hard for them to better themselves as they get older – how does this make any senses for education? The whole point in my opinion is to have school set our kids up for success in their lives and this is literally the exact opposite – we are sending them into the world without trust, without confidence and at a deficit in a lot of ways.
We CANNOT treat kids like adults and expect a positive result, they are not adults. In the video it drives home that punishment is not a solution as it doesn’t help people grow or change. For our youth, that is what we want, for them to learn from mistakes or successes and grow. Children do not understand things the way adults do and therefore we MUST approach educating youth differently. We need to understand how important our expectations of students are and how we must always meet them where they’re at, build confidence and then show them that they can still make it over the bar when you raise it. Relationships are key, positive school culture is key.
Poppyn reminded me how important representation is and how much language matters. To empower youth they must be able to see themselves represented in a positive way. If you can’t see yourself somewhere, it is much harder to picture yourself ever getting there. “POPPYN was created in 2011 by a small group of college students frustrated with the disproportionate amount of negative representation of black youth in the local news.” (p. 80). If you don’t like what you see, we need mentor our students and kids to change it. Everyone deserves to see themselves in a positive light. Later on in the article it speaks to how important language is. We can use our words to, “build trust and amplify voices” (p. 80). or diminish and silence them. We owe our youth more than the later.
Thanks for reading,
“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.”