Power of Participation

As Michigan (and most of the midwest) is being blasted with another “Polar Vortex”, I have taken the opportunity to catch up on some much needed grading.

I have been reading through letters my Government class recently wrote to newly elected officials, discussing issues that they believe are important and should be addressed. The more I read from my class, the more impressed I became with my students.

As a general rule, I always assume that my students will surprise me, but that feeling never gets old. I had the such a feeling when I read a letter from one of my students to Governor Rick Snyder about marriage equality. In this very polite, articulate and well written letter, one line stuck out to me.

During your first term you had said many times that you have no problem with marriage equality, so my question is why do we not have it?

In this one line, I could feel the passion, concern and urgency of the writer. As a teacher I was proud of the accomplishment of the writer to convey their thoughts eloquently, respectfully and powerfully, but I was also excited for them.

Out of all the assignments this year, the assignment to write a letter to an elected official was far and away the most completed by the class, with the highest scores received across the board. I would like to think this is because I have gradually built their skills to a fantastic crescendo, and hopefully I have to a certain extent, but I think the biggest factor in this assignment was giving young people agency.

These students, who often voice a feeling of helplessness in the political realm, took full advantage of speaking directly to their representatives. This is one of those moments I want to bottle and relive over and over again. Hopefully, by providing more opportunities for my students to connect personally with the “real world”, I can.

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