Wow, things have certainly changed since I was in school. When I went to school we __________ (fill in the blank with a change you have observed). When I look at the behaviours of my students, the choices they make and day-to-day social interactions in my classroom I filter it through the 54 year old brain of mine. It usually doesn’t make sense or seems silly and a waste of time. There are many times when I can’t make heads or tails of some of the things that my students do. So, what I tried (and found very useful) is to try and understand it through the brain of the age group I am working with. I sit and talk with individual students, small groups or even at times the entire class and have them explain to me the why of what took place. I tell them that through my adult brain it does not make sense and why would anybody do that. This opens up a wealth of opportunities to delve into the world of my students.
It has evolved to the point where my class votes in key students who will represent their needs and interests and those students become the classroom advisers. When ever a decision that requires our entire group’s input is needed, I go to the classroom advisers who then go to their classmates and get their feedback. The advisers then must prepare a summary of the input they received and meet with me as we collectively make the best decision for our group. In other scenarios, they serve as a resource who can explain to me what a student was thinking or why this makes sense to them. The final role these students play is being a peer mediator/mentor as students work their way out of poor decisions they have made. Needless to say, this is a very empowering strategy for both my students and me.