Out of the Box

It hit me, as I read the prompt for this week’s #YourEduStory challenge, that I didn’t have an answer I was proud of. The question of the week: “How can you empower student voice in your school?”

Sure we talk with students, informally at lunch, in student groups run through counseling or intervention programs, and in our ASB class, where student leaders articulate their perspective beautifully. But even with those mechanisms in place to hear what students are thinking, as a school, I know we can do more.

So…

I took this week’s prompt as a call to action more than a chance for reflection, and I brought this question to the people I really wanted to hear the answer from: students.

Early in the year I’d met with a trio of amazing kids who wanted to talk about homework. We actually looked at a few articles together, and began an interesting conversation, but in the sturm und drang of the school year, I’ll confess that I let it fall away.

This week I got them together again and asked: “How can we empower student voice at Diegueño?”

Here’s what they said:

To empower student voice, we can do multiple things, all of which will encourage students to speak up. One of the things Diegueño could do is have a box placed somewhere easily accessible on the campus, where students can place their opinions on school related matters, anonymously or named. The box would need to be gone through once a week or so, and the top five things brought up would need to be considered seriously. The staff could also host a meeting every month or on some periodical schedule that any students would be welcome to attend. At the meeting, some of the ideas put into the box could be brought up, and the students and teachers could discuss how to solve them. The box and meetings would need to be kept in shape by the students, as this would be a chance for them to discuss things openly with other students, and possibly with teachers. Whatever matter the students decided to resolve should be announced during morning announcements or lunch, and the students would be responsible for making sure it is taken seriously and responsibly (with help and approval from the teachers, of course). Also, the surveys Diegueño staff occasionally posts online are great in my opinion.”

What a great set of ideas.

So in keeping with the idea of this question as an opportunity, I’m setting these four goals, and giving myself the challenge to blog about each sometime in the next few weeks:

First, I will meet regularly with a group of students to ask questions and listen to what they have to say about their Diegueño experience, and I’ll use what they tell me to inform the work I do to make our school the best it can be.

Second, I’ll get working on that box!

Third, I will work with ASB to organize a forum for students to discuss their points of view about our school.

Finally, I will find a way to make transparent and public our conversations.

Hearing students is an important part of being an educator, and acknowledging when you haven’t done a good enough job of it is part of improving. I’m thankful to have had my spring interrupted by the challenge of this topic, and to have been given the opportunity to adjust what I’m doing to get better.

What will the kids say? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.

And when someone asks me about empowering student voice next fall I’m looking forward to having an answer I can be proud of.

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