Strategies and possibilities

Responses by Boston Teacher Residents to an incident where a student brought a gun to school – December 2012 Language, Power and Democracy Course: Dr. Yamila Hussein

What do we do? What can we do? What is our role as teachers?

Long term strategies with an eye to communication and prevention
• • • • • • • • Be reliable and dependable; do what you say you will do when you make promises to youth Be out in the neighborhood and community where the school is located: If you live outside the school neighborhood, learn about and participate in the community in some way; if you feel led to, live in the neighborhood Link what youth are studying to real life challenges and possibilities Conflict resolution / mediation training using real life cases Have a “team” of teachers who advocate for students Lift up the genius of youth and the youth who are doing positive, affirming things (addressing negative media) Know the resources that available to help students and know after school programs they can become involved in We cannot do this alone. We need a community of colleagues to turn to for support: allies, critical friends, intellectual companions

In the moment
• Use this as a teaching and dialogue moment for students and teachers. Some questions to ask: What does it mean to be part of a community where this happens? What keeps us locked in this cycle of violence? Why don’t we and the media bring to light tand pay closer attention to the genius of our youth, the way that we and the media pay close attention to negative incidents like this? What can we do to empower our students?

Give students or have students undertake on a survey like the one that Pedro Noguera did in City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education, Chapter 6: “The Culture of Violence and the Need for Safety in Schools.” Link the activity to something you are teaching (e.g. one teacher resident suggested linking it to the study of Macbeth or to an actual event and sustain the conversation over several weeks. Take off your “teacher’s hat” and get real in conversations with students informally. Create spaces where students can talk about what is happening and listen; ask questions rather than lecture them about what you think is best. Ask questions publicly about what your colleagues and school community can do to be accountable and responsive.

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Questions to ask and think about
How do we define violence? What constitutes violence in school culture or community? Why don’t students trust adults? Why don’t (some) adults protect students? What are students thinking and saying? Why are students saying and thinking what they do? How? When? Why can teachers have candid conversations with youth? How can we heal an entire community? What can keep youth safe? How can we respond when students open up?

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