Teaching Student Voice

“Where there is a will there is a way!” An old time adage has no better purpose than describing the phenomenon of student voice in schools. In these times when standardization seems to have choked out any individualism that teachers may have ever experienced, the odds of actually having students acknowledged as significant partners in the process of improving schools seems nill, at best. At worst we have a US Supreme Court that actively takes away the ability of students to share their voices, no matter what they’re saying.


What to do when students are ready for more? That’s right – empower them! And I’m not just talking about giving the keys to the car to a fifteen year old and letting them figure out how to drive on their own. For three years from 2003 to 2006 I worked deeply in several high schools across Washington State to entwine students within the formalized school improvement process mandated by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. One of the outcomes of that work was the creation of the “Students as Partners Cycle”, which identifies a series of steps to engage students in school improvement.

I actually want to teach every single student I work with about this Cycle, and then facilitate their learning about the steps within. I followed this Cycle in creating the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum, which, after two years, I still have not formally released. 28 hour-long lesson plans are spread across eight project-based modules that cover:

  • Learning about Learning
  • Learning about the Education System
  • Learning about School Reform
  • Learning about Student Voice
  • Learning about Meaningful Student Involvement

There are so many options and avenues and different ways for students to become engaged throughout the entire curriculum… I’m just not sure if there’s interest out there. Well, here’s the finding that out soon enough!

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