Seven ways to ensure students are fully involved in the classroom
From Ratchetdemic: Reimagining Academic Success by Christopher Emdin (Beacon Press, 2021). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.
By Christophe Emdin
Choosing to be ratchetdemic is choosing to challenge respectability and what those in power treasure most: their power and the security it offers them. To be ratchetdemic is to choose to no longer agree with one’s discomfort or the oppression of children through pedagogies that deprive them of their genius, even in its crudest and coarsest forms. More importantly, it is the restoration of the rights of the body to those who have been positioned as undeserving. By “the rights of the body” I am referring to seven rights articulated in the Buddhist tradition. These are most clearly identified in the book Oriental body, western mind, which, although not directly related to education, can serve as a guide for teaching and learning. The seven rights of the body identify what has been denied to students when deprived of the opportunity to be ratchetdemic. These rights to be here, to feel, to act, to love, to speak, to see and to know are at the heart of teaching and learning. Educators who anchor their teaching in restoring these rights to young people use their pedagogy as a protest against how emotional and psychological violence against young people has been normalized in schools.
The right to be here is the first and most fundamental right of the body. In education, it has to be changed into the right to be here as you are. For this right to be recognized, young people must feel that their presence in class, however they choose to express it, is always welcome. Ratchetdemic education begins by recognizing that students, especially black students, who generally feel unwelcome in schools, have a right to be there. Their comfort and free will are compromised by the standards of the institution. Therefore, they feel that school is not for them. this denial of the right to be here affects not only their comfort in the physical classroom, but their ability to learn. Restoring this right is a fundamental component of working with young people to become Ratchetdemic. It is accomplished in the classroom by explicitly stating, when students first enter the school and / or classroom, that the whole business of schooling concerns them. Students need to be told they have the right to be there and reminded that the school has nothing to do but make sure they are whole and learning. This is where statements such as “This is your school,” “This is your class,” and “I am working for you” become essential until students understand that because of divine rights, they are born with, wherever their feet walk. is a space they have the right to occupy and are welcome.
The second right – the right to feel – is to ensure that students have the space to express their emotions and the vocabulary to name what they are feeling. Human beings are born with the right to feel. It is an essential right of return for young people because in schools, pupils only benefit from a very limited range of emotions. In the eyes of teachers, black youth (in particular) can only be angry or pleasant. A number of actions which are indicators of a multitude of emotions are attributed to anger and treated as if they were rooted in negative intentions. If black or brown students are curious or unclear with instructions, they are seen as an angry and questioning authority. If they are frustrated, sad, or thoughtful, they are perceived as angry. In fact, for too many students, anything other than blind complicity is read as anger and confronted with the anger of the institution and its agents. The educator’s job then becomes to work with young people to name their emotions – sharing the language that helps them identify what they are feeling and how they are feeling – while creating the space for those emotions to be felt. and expressed without demonizing young people. This right also involves creating classroom spaces where young people can share their emotions about what is going on in the non-judgmental world and have a teacher who can show how to deal with those emotions.