The Reflection Pool

Do You Want to Go Back?

Reading Time: About 3 Minutes

The return to school is on educators’, parents’* and students’ minds. Lots of adults are weighing in on back to school plans after our spring shutdown and in the midst of a global pandemic.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

I asked my teenage niece how she would want to return to school. Would she rather a full return or part time (in Ministry of Education speak, that would be conventional or adaptive), if our public health experts give the green light. She didn’t hesitate, “Every other day would be way better.” The adults in her life, including me, were surprised. I just made the assumption that all kids want to be back full time. Good thing I actually asked her.

While many of us miss seeing friends or colleagues at the office or at school, some of us just aren’t “every day – all day” into it. And that includes children and youth.

Some kids and young people really like school. They’re the ones who belong to whatever culture the staff and school community create and nurture within the building. The ones who excel in athletics. The extroverts. The ones who learn quickly and easily. The ones who look like our societal norms. The ones who act in ways that those in power deem acceptable.

We so-called leaders in education say school is for students. We talk about “in the best interests of students”. We mention “student voice”. Mission statements and goals include references to students.

Yet there are so many who don’t thrive there. Youth like my niece who enjoy the activities and friend connections but find in class activities tiresome, boring and irrelevant. Kids who don’t see themselves in their white, cisgender, middle class teachers. Students who don’t think like the status quo that so many of us represent. Young people who question perceived wisdom. Those who are activists.

I used to think that schooling was for the benefit of everyone, that kids just needed to comply – it was the “real world” after all. Now I think that deep change is needed within the educational systems in this province and in our country. Status quo isn’t good enough. Doing things the same way as the dominant culture decides is right doesn’t cut it. Spurred by reading and colleagues, I’m asking these questions:

  • Who benefits from the way we’ve been doing things?
  • How can the voices of all students be amplified?
  • What does it mean to use an anti-racist lens when working on early reading and progress towards graduation?

And…

How might I use my position and influence for change?

I want my niece to look forward to her classes. I want all students to be excited to return to school, every day, all day and not just because they will see their friends. I want them to see themselves in their schools.

Please share this post with any young people you know. Maybe they might want to contribute their voice to this space.

*means parents, guardians, caregivers