The three seniors and I sat around the table in my office and we talked. Our discussion had started with a time capsule; construction of a new classroom building had unearthed a 2’x2’ metal box, heavy, rusted, and welded shut. The students were curious about this mysterious piece of campus history. We honestly don’t know what’s in it, none of us, students or adults. It’s a great equalizer, the unknown, and a welcome catalyst for conversation.
We talked a bit about the past, then shifted to the present: they’d like to put a time capsule of their own into the ground. “Where,” they asked, “do we get a time capsule?”
Plans made, our conversation drifted to other topics: the new term, what it had been like to move to Encinitas and start at San Dieguito, and the pressures of applying to college.
When I hear the question of how schools can promote “student voice” my first thoughts are of the big things like our Student Forum and the fabulous funkiness of “The Mustang,” our student newspaper. Formal opportunities like these are important, and a vibrant student newspaper and active ASB are indicators that a school hears what students have to say.
Here at San Dieguito we’re blessed with both, and both know that the spirit of our school is rooted in the belief that students should have a huge say in what happens here. Our San Dieguito culture of acceptance comes from the thousand little acts of kindness students show each other every day.
The dozen or so teachers new to San Dieguito saw this back in August when a panel of students came in to tell them what our school is all about. As the principal, I had yapped at the new teachers already, but it was when these amazing students took the stage that the true nature of our school filled the room. As students talked about the respect and encouragement they felt from teachers, their voices helped our newest additions understand the possibilities of the year ahead.
Important in this process, and true at San Dieguito, is the adults’ willingness to trust that what the students have to say matters.
Here at San Dieguito one way of celebrating that unexpected and often delightful voice is the fact that our school’s official Twitter account is run by students and fronted by our school mascot. I love that the students have this voice, unfiltered and filled with the exuberance of youth.
And yet it’s in those quiet conversations, like the one one I had with those three seniors, that I feel student voice is at its strongest. Those students didn’t need to be told that their opinions mattered. They didn’t have to shout to be heard. They knew that what they had to say was important and would be listened to.
The more often conversations like the one I had the pleasure to share with those three students happen, the more students spread the word that they can, should, and will be heard. Each of these conversations makes our school healthier, happier, and more closely connected.