For many of our students, they wonder if the things that they have learned in the classroom would be applicable to their lives once they leave school. Although they may not have to perform the distributive property of factors in their daily lives, there are some instances in which what they do in class are applicable once they leave. One of those instances is civic engagement. Within our current political administration, both teacher and pupil alike have some type of opinion about how our nation is governed and what the future holds for us. However, there remains quite a few that feel that being taught civics has no impact on their lives, but little do they know that the laws made today affect their families for years.
At City Year, we value Big Citizenship. To me, Big Citizenship means servanthood and is important for students to learn more about Big Citizenship through civic engagement classes because, as students transition from adolescence to adulthood, they will one day be a part of the larger community. Some may decide to become community activists and engaged in politics, yet they will be serving the greater Milwaukee community. By learning servanthood at an early age, students would have gained the necessary experiences to make them successful for real world civic engagement.
In the class which I provide whole class support, we have spent the last three weeks focusing on the Constitution and the legislative branch. While the Constitution is the law of the land, interpreting its content is not always the easiest task. One amendment, for instance, is the First Amendment. To the average Joe, we might say “I have freedom of speech” as our way of defending something said that is highly taboo. Yet, the actual verbiage of the First Amendment is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” All Americans, but especially our students should be aware of the full rights that they are granted as citizens, but for those who do not know nor see the importance of learning vital information, they are instantly put at a disadvantage.
In my intervention groups. I strive to make civics not only engaging, but also relatable. Anyone would get easily bored reading a 232-year-old document. So, what can be done to make it both enjoyable and relatable? I found the answer lies in articles. Find an article that deals with a certain issue that has been discussed in class or media (i.e. gun control) and have students identify the issue, vocalize their thoughts and then have them relate it to Milwaukee or their lives. This way, students are not only learning about civics, but how the government is constantly implemented in their lives.
So…what is the solution? It is quite simple. Make civics thought provoking. Being lectured to about a 232-year-old country can be very boring yet learning different strategies to engage the students not only makes the content interesting, but keeps students eager to learn how they can apply it to their lives.
Hello! My name is Kwani Burks and I proudly serve as a City Year Milwaukee Student Success Coach at Vincent High School of Agricultural Sciences. I recently began my year of service with the January cohort (woo!) and I must say, I am truly enjoying my term of service as of now. At Vincent, I support 9th grade citizenship and honor’s English, while also serving as the Extended Learning Time coordinator for our team.