Slowly but surely it is being accepted that the voice of students is an integral component of every thing we do in schools. From school improvement efforts, to creating more engaging classrooms, students have something to teach us! Granted, it has taken us longer than it should have to figure that out.
One way to ensure student voice in school is to speak a common language. When we work with students and staff around student aspirations , we use a language that is understandable. Unlike education jargon and acronyms, we speak in a “common” language that is understood from the earliest of school age children to the most seasoned veteran. Our work in school is guided by infusing 8 Conditions in all that we do.
- Belonging means you don’t have to pretend to be someone else, and you can just be yourself.
- Heroes inspire you to strive for your dreams; they give you that extra push you need to be successful.
- Sense of Accomplishment is when you reach your goals; it’s when you are okay with a B or even a C+ as long as you know you did your best.
- Fun & Excitement is when you enjoy yourself while learning; doing activities in school that show fun and respect can go together.
- Curiosity & Creativity means being able to share your own ideas in class; you can ask “Why are things like this?”
- Spirit of Adventure is being open-minded and realizing there are all kinds of things to learn, and just working with it no matter where you are.
- Leadership & Responsibility means having a big role in what happens at school; you set the standard by doing the right thing.
- Confidence to Take Action means just doing it! Take action! Knowing I can do this.
We are not sure 4th graders know what “differentiated instruction” is, or if a high school freshman knows whether or not his teachers are using a “culturally relevant pedagogy.” They probably think “frameworks” are ways to hang pictures on a wall and that “benchmarks” are when someone carves their name into those seats in the park. We adults can learn about and discuss intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, or self-efficacy, or the pedagogical conditions that are malleable in the teaching-learning environment. But if we want our students to be our partners in helping create better teaching and learning environments, and have a voice that matters, we are going to need a common language that brings everyone closer to the school’s goals, whatever they are.
The simple fact is that students have a point of view that we adults do not. Being willfully ignorant of that perspective is not just to be deaf to those for whom school exists; it is to make oneself less effective as a decision-maker. As we begin another school year, let’s do so with ears and eyes wide open.