May 04, 2017 09:30 AM EDT
Troublemakers are often viewed negatively or with disgust in schools. However, veteran educator Carla Shalaby said that these kids are not the real problem themselves but the system that forces them to conform.
Shalaby, who was a former elementary school teacher and attended graduate programs of education at Harvard and Rutgers, discussed in her recent book, "Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom From Young Children at School," how troublemakers try to tell the rest of the society that there is a problem in the American school system that needs to be addressed to.
In an interview with The Atlantic, she began saying that schools are supposed to be the place where students can practice freedom because it is common sense to assume that it is the right of every human being to be free. And one of the situations humans express that freedom is in refusing any treatment they think are inhumane or stops that freedom.
Sadly, though, the schools have become institutions of constraint rather than freedom - where they aim to control students through a system of punishment and reward. Schools have begun to treat students as objects that need to be acted upon rather than thinking individuals who act and have the right to express their freedom and be treated with respect.
Thus, those children who practice the act of refusal in schools are normal because it is a normal reaction for a human being to refuse if they are constrained to do something they do not want to do. More often, teachers respond to this act of defiance by excluding the student. Shalaby said that this worsens the problem instead of solving it.
The danger of exclusion, she said, is that it reinforces the natural and cultural commitment to racialized social and economic seclusion instead of finding creative ways for restorative methods. The classroom has become a microcosm of the caste system happening in the society as a whole instead of a place of opportunity for children to imagine and practice a better way.
These are the lessons educators can learn from troublemakers in school - to prioritize relationships in the classroom by creating restorative problem-solving that brings healing.
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