ILASCD Journal

Winter 2016

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Page 66 of 73

Allow me to give some context. To risk understatement, 2016 has been a year of political turmoil. We, as a nation, have mired through a miasmic year of legislative grid-locks, funding lock- downs, and toxic runs for office. An unprecedented level of negativity has clouded our view of the future, leaving all of us asking one question about 2017: What comes next? Voting adults are not the only ones asking this question. As the election cycle was nearing its culmination, I began noticing that the subtle atmosphere of general anxiety was seeping into the classroom—a place we esteem as a welcoming space for all walks of life to journey together for the sake of education. My students were trying to see through the haze of political coverage (or feigning ignorance for their mental wellbeing), but without a model of healthy discourse they struggled to put to words what they truly thought. Many expressed a resigned hopelessness in a system that appeared to not reflect their own personal values or interests, while others could only speak of their invaluable democracy as a joke, turning to popular internet parodies for their political language. Changing this culture of flippancy to one of collective engagement was difficult, but well worth the effort. I teach English to ninth and eleventh graders in a small town on the edge of the St. Louis metro-east. My city has had its own struggles over the past few years, and I have strived to use my expertise to be an instrument of advocacy and social change among my students. And a remarkable thing has occurred in all of this: When treated with the dignity of people who will one day be leaders in my community, the students rose to meet the challenges we face as a city and as a nation. Click to our BLOG to read more! From the ILASCD blog... What Does an Agent of Change Look Like in 2017? As it turns out, not that different than in 1849. WINTER 2016 | VOLUME 62 | NUMBER 4 | PAGE 67

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