Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Teaching Citizenship Part 1 The WHY....

This is an attempt to recreate my keynote from Byte 2011.  I really want to get across why it is important to teach citizenship or to model being a good citizen.  It is in all of our best interests.

I am not going to lie to you.  I am a lucky person.  I love my job, I love my students and I do not have any problem going to work every day.  I teach in a rather large Nursery to Grade 9 school in the west end of Winnipeg.  Sargent Park School has a population of about 1000 students of which the 140 grade 8 students are all mine.  The majority of them are kind courteous and kids you would bring home to meet your family. 

So why am I so concerned about teaching Citizenship to students.  Think about the news lately.  What is the dominating theme in popular media...

Facebook is bad. Bad Bad Bad? Yet..

Yet around the world things are happening because of Social Media... but it is bad please remember that!!
Youtube gets cute kids noticed.

Kids should not be on the computer just learning reading writing and writhmatic.

If you were to ask my parents who live across from Ecole Robert H Smith (a large elementary school and popular teen late night hangout)  they might describe teens this way:

  1. “Hanging out late in public places”, 7/11, play structures
  2. lazy just give me the answer please
  3. naive fragile unique
  4. Not go getter's “do I have too?”

Not the most flattering light to see the next generation of leaders in is it?

On the other hand

Teachers see:
  1. Self-absorbed; indulged; multi-tasking
  2. decent, grounded and optimistic
  3. entitled, distracted, perplexed
  4. impulsive, impatient,  collaborative.
  5. hopeful, restless, connected
  6. connected, curious, social
Let's Define Citizenship.

"Active citizenship" is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public , volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens.
Citizenship was equated by Virginia Leary (1999) as connoting "a bundle of rights

But lets look at this another way.  Perhaps citizenship is not a bundle of rights but a bundle of responsibilities. Kids especially teens do not just wake up and understand these bundles of responsibilities.  They have a hard enough time waking up!!

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Ollie Crafoord

I think that the vast majority of teens are trying to find themselves. They need a push them to go in positive directions.  A favorite analogy of mine is that teens are clay creatures that have been molded into who they are by their previous experiences but the clay is not cured yet.  We still have time to mold some important imprinting into these creatures before it is set.

Teens have a hard time seeing past their out-stretched hand.  Their world view is only as far as their hand can reach to the next french fry or meal.  (Imagine Linda Carter and Wonder Woman). 

 These students will be adults soon and need to be shown how they can become better citizens, to do their part in making life better for others.

As educators we all need young adults to wrestle with these ideas or responsibilities before they take their rightful place as leaders in our communities and our world.

I think you can create better citizens by empowering students to become better people.  At Sargent Park we do three projects a year in Grade 8:
  • Part 1 Pay it Forward (Individual Random act of Kindness)
  • Part 2 25¢ a day (the power of the click. In just one click you can help people from all over the world.  Now local is global)
  • Part 3 2 Minutes to Make a Difference (Student initiated go out and make a difference video)

When do we have time to do all of this.... Creative time-tabling and homework kids WANT  to do:) Believe it or not there are lots of curricular connections to all of these projects.  I will point them out to you during this brief talk.

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