What? Students taking responsibility? Since we’ve been imagining a fantasy education world, why not include responsible students in our vision? Let me show you how this imagined student responsibility can become another Education Fantasy Fulfilled!
For most people in the education field, student’s taking responsibility is almost laughable. It seems everywhere we turn in education the student is NOT the one responsible! The teachers are not teaching right, or the curriculum doesn’t make sense, or the administrators are not running the school right, or the parents aren’t raising the kids right. These are all common themes in discussions about school improvement and “getting these kids to learn!” Rarely does anyone stop and look at the student? Why? Because they are a CHILD and our society seems to believe that children are not responsible human beings.
The democratic school philosophy says different (please note, democratic schools have NOTHING to do with our political bipartisanship)! Here democracy is used to make decisions that effect the school from minor discipline issues to hiring new faculty and staff. EVERY PERSON HAS 1 VOTE, which means the 5 year old in kindergarten has the same voice and vote during the parliamentary process as the director of the school.
“NO WAY is a 5 year old prepared to vote and have a voice in important things!” you say, but they actually are. In schools that use this model, the students far outnumber the faculty and staff and they achieve fully functioning school status. Are there bumps in the road? Sure, but show me a school that doesn’t have bumps in the road.
When we feel we are being heard, have choices and can vote in the matters that effect us, we are more likely to be involved, work harder, care about the results, and advocate for ourselves and others. This happens no matter what age we are.
Here is an example of the democratic school problem solving process.
A student who feels bullied can bring up his grievance in a general meeting, both sides are heard and the people present make a determination on whether or not the offense is punishable, if so, what the punishment should be. This is done through discussion and voting. Everyone has 1 vote – a true democracy. Students that don’t attend the general meeting don’t vote. It is a very simple process for a complicated matter.
The student who has brought up the grievance feels heard and can move on from the incident; the offending student understands that there are consequences for their actions; all the people involved in the process feel they are part of a community that communicates and works together.
No system is perfect because as humans we are not perfect, but this system eliminates problems of rebelling against authority and decreases poor behavior choices. Meetings tend to be long, lists of rules tend to be long as well, but everyone is invested in the system which means they want to see it work. A 5 year old may not understand all the vocabulary, but they do understand respect and justice, and EVERYONE involved, no matter their age TAKES RESPONSIBILITY for their own involvement and decisions.
This is the beginning of the responsible child!
Robert’s Rules of Order are used as a foundation for some democratic schools general meeting procedures, which provides structure for all participants.
This post is not about bullying, but bullying is an issue with which our society deals with on a daily basis. Here are some ideas to help reduce bullying in any school: Bullying, Suicide, and Murder.