My Voice My Community
How Do You Want to Invest Your Time?

A Community of 6th Graders Tackles Issue Selection

With packets of photocopied song lyrics in front of each student, Jasmine Knowles wastes no time getting down to the serious business of guiding her 6th graders at Freire Charter School through the sometimes thorny issue selection process.

“When I start the music, what are we looking for?” she asks her students.

“We’re highlighting lyrics that talk about social issues,” one answers quickly. “Like the ones we listed on the poster” – Need in Deed’s “Issue Parking Lot,” where the students had generated a list of about 20 concerns they had encountered personally or observed in their communities.

“That’s right – we’re deciding which issues are worth investing a year of our time,” Jasmine affirms.

NID requires teachers to give up some control to their students; the process often provokes deep conversations about difficult issues. Jasmine, a 1st year NID Network Member and a 2nd year Teach for America corps member, took on this challenging process with both of her 6th grade classes without hesitation. She could see right away how it would benefit her students while also helping her achieve her goals as a teacher.

“Going through this process with two classes with very different personalities, I have to be cognizant of not carrying expectations from one group onto the other – to stay true to the process and let the students find their own voices,” Jasmine says. Community building activities, like writing and sharing poems, have laid the groundwork for the process.

Jasmine isn’t the only one who has seen the positive impact of NID. Student Jabari says that NID has changed the way the 6th graders interact with each other. “This year, there’s less fighting and arguing – people get along. They laugh more.”

His classmate Anayah agrees: “People are a little nicer this year because we can relate to each other. The project helps us find things we have in common. It sets us in our right minds because we’re excited to help people.”

The students’ desire to take a stand and make a difference in their communities is exactly what Jasmine was hoping they would gain from the NID process. “I want my students to be advocates for themselves and others. I want them to see how much more is out there, to see what they can accomplish.”