As an educator, I have always valued the voice of students who were able to advocate for themselves. Students who had the skills to communicate what they needed, showed maturity, pride, and ultimately success. Working with these young adults, helped to strengthen my approach to other students and build my skills as an educator. Relating to one another helped to establish strong sustainable relationships that begun with their voice, which guided me in how I raised my own children.
However, having my own middle school child has been challenging. As a parent, you have the urge to hold your child’s hand every step of the way. As an educator, you know you must teach them to use their voice in relation to seeking support. This year has stretched our family as Hezekiah has entered middle school from choosing classes to having “the talk” about girls.
However, for Today we won’t delve into “the talk” conversation and will focus on the advocating for classes situation, which took place the first several weeks of school. As a 6th grader, you are able to have a couple of elective classes, however, with the program Hezekiah entered the options were slim in relation to his cohort. Hezekiah was sitting at the table, with a perplexed look on his face, with his colored pencil box open, and a white piece of paper with some odd shapes. He was in pursuit of creating a self-portrait. The frustration filled the air as he explained, that he would never be an artist, hated art class, but loved the teacher. I listened, while grinning, and told him to go speak to his counselor about changing the course. Days went on and he never mentioned meeting with his counselor, Mr. Munoz. So, I asked, “Hezekiah, what did Mr. Munoz say about switching out of the class?” He explained that they had a brief conversation in passing and he said, “we will see.” Having been a counselor, I knew this was code for, “no bro stick it out.”
I left the situation alone, until he brought it up again. I explained he needed to set up a meeting with Mr. Munoz and have a good reason to be moved out of the class. He looked excited and said he would go in the morning. When he returned home, he begun explaining that he spoke to Mr. Munoz. I started to get excited too, until what came out of his mouth next. Hezekiah explained that he had asked Mr. Munoz if he could move out of art because he felt discriminated against. My stomach dropped because, I knew I was going to have to take off work and go up to the school. I said, well why do you feel you are being discriminated against?” He said with a slight smile, “because the class is designed for people who are able to do art and I am not able to do art, I have an art disability.” My body went limp, I looked at him, and we both begin to crack up laughing. He told me Mr. Munoz, was like man get out of here and go to art. Even though it probably isn’t the reason I would have used, I was still proud of him for going the extra mile and attempting to change something he was not happy with, he was able to utilize his voice, and be heard. Hezekiah ended the year with an A in the class (not the COVID A but, a solid A) He worked hard, his teacher Ms. Stegeman worked harder, and I was able to just be a mama and communicate about his progress. Little wins!