Remember from my earlier post that “connection points” are the places throughout our communities where the broadest applications of social change actually occur. Civic engagement, youth empowerment, cultural border-crossing, and critical encounters all happen in these places all of the time.
Considering the various connection points throughout our communities, it may be important to consider the particular circumstances young people face everyday. Depending on a variety of factors, some connection points might actually have relatively simple connection points for young people to motivate, create, assess, or critique change within a community.
For instance, the home of a middle-class, duo-parent household might have a simple connection point: the parents. This becomes more complicated when we consider the variations therein; i.e. gender roles, cultural norms, “assigned” or adopted parents, etc. However, taken in its most media-hyped form, the home may be an easily-identifiable connection point for young people to affect change.
However, when considering the traditional public school environment, the situation automatically becomes much more complicated – even without the varying considerations at play therein. I used to think schools were easy: change the principal, change the teacher, affect the students. However, my 5 years of experience as a whole-school reform consultant focusing on meaningful student involvement have shown me a different picture.
The following are five major youth engagement connection points in the school environment that I have identified (in no order):
- Education administration–The good people are renowned as enforcers, supervisors, and managers also serve as a major connection point for young people in schools. Administration drives many aspects of the school that young people can – and do – affect daily. Planning, hiring, firing, evaluating, and directing all fall into this area.
- Curriculum and instruction–Few, if any, educators go into teaching with a consciousness that would allow them to deliberately harm young people. This allows young people infinite connection points within the course of classroom teaching, mentoring, and management. Research, planning, teaching, evaluating, and advocacy occur here.
- Leadership– Young people can affect their peer leaders, teacher-leaders, and building leaders everyday. Their impact is current; however, popular consciousness about young people’s ability to impact adults is almost non-existant. Planning, advocacy, and decision-making occur within the auspices of leadership.
- Policy-making and regulation– The process of developing, implementing, assessing, and readjusting policies, rules, and regulations in schools allows numerous connection points for young people. These scenarios can place young people in potential awkward roles as police, monitors, or “spies”. However, they can also allow young people to flex good judgement and fair advocacy.
- Social influence– Measuring young people’s connection points among younger students, their peers, older students, their teachers, or other adults is a both difficult and humbling. However, once we understand and acknowledge young peoples’ influence, we can recognize advocacy, decision-making, and planning occuring constantly throughout their day everyday.
As this list illustrates, its vital to identify the breadth of connection points where young people can become further engaged in the communities they belong to. At some point in the future I’ll explore the actual ways this engagement can happen, as well as identify some different places and ways current engagement occurs.