I’ve seen what I needed to see and I’ve heard what I needed to hear and y’all, I’m bout sick of it! If I encounter one more school building where students have bubbles in their mouths and hands behind their backs or they are being punished for being “too loud” in the hallways during passing periods or talking in the cafeteria during lunch, I’m going to flip my wig! Well, that’s actually impossible because I have #sisterlocks but you guys get the point. I’m going to lose it!
I don’t know about y’all but my social life was developed AT SCHOOL. I remember the days that I couldn’t wait to get to school and catch up on the latest gossip, talk about our favorite shows, or B2Ks latest song. Let’s be honest, I went to school to socialize and if I couldn’t do that at school, then I was chunking the deuces and going to find where my friends were at.
Being at school and with my friends brought me joy. I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise so I could throw on a cute outfit, grab my backpack, and head to the bus stop where the day officially got started. Going to school meant that I was going to be in a community of like-minded individuals that understood who I really was, loved me for me, and that I had a space to escape the darkness that surrounded my whole life.
(I can feel the California sun beaming down my neck on the playground as I write)
It breaks my heart to see the joy of having a social life being stripped away from students in schools–especially after years of being so disconnected. During shut-downs, there was so much talk about reimagining education and soon as the school doors open, survival mode took over and “be quiet and do your work on *fill in blank with your learning management system*. I know safety protocols disrupted much of students’ ability to have a normal social life when they returned to school but we must remember that one of the many reasons why students were so eager to “return to normal” is because school is where the heart of their social life existed.
Having a social life is a primary food that nourishes our body and fuels our soul. Our social life keeps us in connection and community with others and fills us up with one of the most important vitamins out there–Vitamin L (for LOVE). When we are not provided with the space or opportunity to have fulfilling social life, many of us are existing out of our norm–especially students who come from a culture rooted in collectivism.
This may not be your situation, but one of the biggest issues that I see when it comes to allowing students to have authentic social interactions/social lives in schools, is this fear that they will “get out of hand” or this archaic belief that the school building is not a place for “socializing” but for “learning”. But here’s the cook…if students don’t want to be in your school or they feel out of community, learning will not happen in a manner that will have a lasting impact on students and things will eventually get out of control. Why? Because your school building comes off more like prison than a place of freedom and AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.
What if I told you learning will still happen in an engaging and authentic manner when you create space for students to be social? You do this by intentionally connecting your instruction to what is relevant and important to them. If that’s the latest TikTok trend, cool! If it’s a beef popping off in the music industry…let’s roll with it? If they want to talk about what happened on the block over the weekend or who did what at the park, let’s go for it! Everything happening in your students’ social lives can be connected back to a lesson in your classroom. But, this is going to require you to step outside your comfort zones, create space for students to just be, and some creativity from you as the facilitator of learning.
Don’t know where to start, no problem…I got you. Here are THREE questions you can ask your students TODAY and begin to connect their social lives to your instruction.
1) If you had to reteach a concept or skills using an audio clip from TikTok or IG, what would you teach and what voice over would you use? Why?
2) Did you see, do, or hear anything in the last week that reminded you about something we learned in class?
3) If you could invite any family member, friend, or person from your community to our school to teach us something that relates to ___________________ who would that person be, what would they teach, and why did you select them?
Remember, we were created to exist in connection and community with others and schools and classrooms, for many youth are where their social lives begin. Our social lives allow us to experience joy on a whole new level and get the vitamin L we need to nourish our souls. Creating a space where students’ lives outside of school matter just as much as their lives when they are inside our schools is what being culturally relevant and responsive is all about. These types of spaces will allow students to show up as their true authentic selves and witness their learning being connected to who they really are and not what we want them to be. It’s time we twist things up a lotta bit.
I can’t wait to see how these three questions transform your instruction and let me know on Twitter (@twstedteaching) how your instruction became more relevant by connecting it to students’ social lives.
Until next week…