Amending Colorado’s Constitution

Student perspective

By | Timothy-Matthew Ferdinand

As a current student attending high school in the Aurora Public Schools District, my initial impression after reading both articles was slightly doubtful. My doubt stems from the ability of staff to treat students according to the definitions of dignity expressed in the articles. Overall, I think there is a strong power dynamic in schools that might require a lot of individual work to be undone. I agreed with many of the sentiments shared by R2L, and I was able to pinpoint instances I felt undignified in my education experience and times I felt valued by my teachers. 

One of the articles a community member mentioned, “Autonomy for students to use the bathrooms”. This struck me as very relatable as I have found troubles with this in my own school. Students are not allowed to go to the bathroom by our own free will. This creates a dynamic of distrust and feeling of being powerless. Even if a student wants to take a walk because they find it hard to concentrate in class, we should have education tailored to engage those students. Sometimes students feel like they have nothing to offer during class and would rather leave than participate for fear of embarrassment. If we can’t even make any decisions for ourselves during school and our teachers don’t trust us, how will we ever make the right choices when we leave high school?

I agreed with a few of the statements from R2L. People should feel important in school. I really like this statement. When we feel important we feel more motivated to learn. When we take our education seriously it is because we feel like we have a future we need to prepare for. For some of our assignments students get 50% just for writing our names. Instead of making us feel good about it, it actually makes us feel bad. Why are the expectations so low for us that our name would take up so much of our grade? 

I thought very positively when the article mentioned, “Everybody in the school is being treated the same, with no bias against students because of their background”. There have been many instances where it was clear teachers or staff favored another student. I think of this as one of my undignified moments, as it makes me feel inferior when I think I’m below someone else for no other reason besides who I am as a Black boy. Or if they assume I’m a troublemaker, when I have not even had a chance to prove otherwise. I hope that this amendment helps change the culture in schools, so no other students who look like me are made to feel inferior for no other reason than the color of our skin. Our beliefs about each other can impact someone else’s beliefs about themselves, which can influence their actions. 

I think these articles could have more perspectives from students. We have a unique position of power in schools and we can describe best how we feel in these spaces. Some of these perspectives are misinformed or lacking depth, especially when it comes to complexities of implementing certain educational reforms. For instance, I can describe based on R2L’s definition of dignity several instances where my teachers created that spark of being seen and heard within me. I have teachers who have told me and my parents that I am bright, I have a lot to offer and have a great future ahead of me. When I hear these comments, it makes me feel confident. This confidence emboldens me to work harder on my school work because like they said I will prove them right. Our actions towards others have an effect on how they perceive themselves and their future prospects. 

Conversely, I know many students who had the opposite experience. Factors such as the built environment at school feels like a prison. We have no windows and then policies that criminalize students, for offenses like tardies. Many kids walk to school or are driven to school, yet we are penalized for things outside of our own decision making. Students who frequent the bathroom must be given bathroom escorts. When this happens not everyone wants to be at school. They’re just hoping to get school done with because it’s not a pleasant place to be. So, if not for me, I hope schools can be places of learning where all students know what it feels like to be told we have potential in spaces that makes us happy to be at school. 

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Timothy-Matthew Ferdinand

 

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