"We know from personal experience that when students feel their time spent in school is productive and that they can make real, visible changes within their schools, they put more effort into their learning. But this isn’t just supposition; If you ask any student when they felt most interested in their school, we bet we can predict their response. It’s when they were involved, as a partner, in both the design and implementation of lessons that appealed to real world problems....
Adults wring their hands, wondering how they can improve education in America. Well, we have the answer: an engaged and confident student body is the key to any broader school improvement effort. Without that buy-in, adults will always be working on the margins of the school culture."Andrew Brennen (Andrew is the National Field Director of Student Voice, a non-profit group for students (and run by students) to integrate their voices into the global education conversation.)
Is he right? Are we just working on the margins of improvement and innovation because we are not authentically partnering with our students?
I worry about this, especially since my school visits in Australia. It has caused me to re-think the student voice work we are embarking on in our district this fall. Initially, I wanted to have students act as researchers within a school setting to work with volunteer teachers on reflective practice. No more, unless that's where their interest lies. It's not about me.
Students have to be in charge of this work, and empowered to make decisions and take action. To that end, I promise to get out of the way, and to work to get other adults out of the way.
We have some initial ideas for their consideration, but then, it is up to them. Our proposal for "buckets" of school improvement research to conduct will fall into four general categories: 1) teaching and learning; 2) student wellbeing; 3) technology; and 4) physical structures & logistics of the school. If their desire to research an area falls outside one of these buckets, we'll create a new one. We will support them by providing learning and resources as needed, and authentically being partners on a level playing field. I personally cannot wait for them to teach me.
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How else might we authentically partner with students for school improvement?