Ever so slowly we are introducing more and more student voice into our decision making at Catholic Memorial. As I have experienced in so many other schools, I now see in my school how student voice is and is becoming the instrument of change. What I knew previously is that students have a different perspective on the school, and in some cases the world, than adults. As a result they contribute fresh ideas, ideas that emerge from looking at things differently. In my work with QISA, I made a case that students should have a seat at the table where meaningful decisions are made. I conveyed students into such meetings and they conveyed their ideas. That fresh content is helping at CM as we consider how we can improve and better serve all students.
What I hadn’t experienced previously—as a conveyer of content and not myself on the receiving end of the process—was that the effort of including students itself, and not just the freshness of their ideas, is itself transformative. In such meetings the very partnership between teachers and students we are trying to get more of in our classrooms at CM is actually present in the meeting room. Teachers and students working together; adults as “guides on the side,” not “sages on the stage;” all equally an expert in his or her unique point of view…all of that is already happening when students are invited to participate in meetings that typically happen only with adults. We are enacting in the present the reality we seek in the future.
This morning several students were present as the CM faculty discussed the second half of the PBS NOVA School of the Future video. The video is all about the need for a project-based, real world relevant approach. It is about an increased need in schools for student collaboration, student agency, and student self-knowledge. The video highlights the engagement that results from working with students on outcomes that make a difference in their local communities, not just garner them good grades on tests. And as the time flew by and all the adults found ourselves wishing we had more time to continue the dialogue with these students, it occurred to me that we were doing what the video was calling for.
- Working to improve a school is a project with real world consequences.
- Students were collaborating with us and with one another; they were agents, not passive spectators; they knew themselves as students and what might make things better.
- The outcomes that emerge will improve our school community.
- There will be no test.
What I learned this morning was that the instrumentality of Student Voice is not just in its future potential for changing our school, but in the present fact that such a partnership in these meetings is the change we seek.