How do you empower student voice in your classroom or school? Once again, I’m going to adjust the question this week for #youredustory. How do I empower students in my classroom or school? Student voice is one key element of empowering students. However, voice without action, talk without walk doesn’t empower students to engage and be change agents. The key to this is in mind is relationships. In my classroom, it starts with listening. Active listening is the yang to the yin of student voice. Active listening is not listening with one ear while focusing on doing something else, it is not listening till you hear the thought/answer/contribution you were fishing for but it is the listening where the contribution shared is acted upon. Do you challenge the contribution, do you rebut or do you encourage further contributions and promote collaboration, student voice needs active participation to grow. Student voice must lead to student action as Nick Jackson states here and the level of student action within your classroom or school is your measure of how empowered your students are at your school. It still perplexes me when students ask “are you sure I am allowed to do that” before engaging with a project. In my classroom this statement doesn’t hang around for long, it soon becomes “this is what I plan to do and achieve and I’ll share my findings once I’m done” or “what do you think of what I have done”. Either way, the student has taken action and not on my command or direction but with their own and (sometimes) with my consultation.
At my school, we have Digital Leaders in our Primary Years and Student Techs in our Senior Years. You can read about our Digital Leader program here and here. Our Student Techs work on our Helpdesk as a direct response to a student survey that I had completed that analysed the relationship between students and the IT department. These students had absolutely ripped through our previous team and so I asked them to help us to help them. As a result, they now assist students with their technical issues, image new computers, talk to staff about computer difficulties and work on some passion projects. A really interesting element to this whole process has been that fellow students walk past them when they are trying to assist and seek out the adult. To rectify this, I have told the guys to design some tee-shirts. Below is one of the designs and the correspondence between us…it truly is theirs.
To end this post, I am not going to share a story about my classroom but about the empowerment that I believe is needed to shift education to meet the needs of today’s youth. It is once again from the Oz Digital Leader movement and it is a blog post outlining student observations and opinions following their participation at a teacher conference. Click on the image to visit the blog.