Blogging About Student Voice

Regular readers know that I continuously cover 4-5 topics in this blog, one of which is student voice. To help me do that I try to keep my “finger on the pulse” of what’s being said in the blogosphere. Every now and then I find a rash of postings, usually from a class somewhere, and this last week’s was courtesy of students at Metropolitan State College in Denver.

Here are some of reflections in the “Introduction to Teacher Education” course there. I am taking the liberty of responding to each one – at the original post you can find their instructor’s response, as well:

“We expect our students to graduate high school and make good decisions when they turn eighteen, but up until then, children don’t have the opportunity to make many decisions that affect their school or learning.” – From Lisa’s Blog

When done from a constructivist perspective, engaging students as partners in schools can encourage students to apply learning in powerful ways from kindergarten through graduation. These powerful ways, including student-led evaluations of themselves, their peers, their classes and their teachers, can allow students to identify, construct, apply, critique, and reform their own perspectives – rather than having teachers feel like they need to continuously shove it down students’ throats.

“As long as students don’t dictate every area of their education, I don’t see why having them involved somewhere in their school will be a bad thing.” – From Slick’s Thoughts

This perspective is what is called nobless oblige – From the kindness of their hearts, the nobility of old France was obliged to help the poor because that was the right thing to do (not just because the nobles were rich off their labor!) The quote above shows the same perspective – From the kindness of their hearts, teachers are obliged to engage the students from the kindness of their hearts – and not just because students are the whole reason they have jobs in the first place! Unforunately, this type of thinking pervades many teachers’ minds, and while not terrible, it is misguided, and allows many teachers to resign from their student voice efforts when they don’t go as planned without feeling bad.

“…many of the students that choose to have this voice are the students that all ready have a voice.” – From EDU 221

I thought this entire post was right on the mark – especially from the view of a mom with teenaged children. Awesome. Right at then end of her post she offers a little more insight that I think could be reflected on so much more: “My oldest(17) is the opposite. He pretends that he doesn’t care. Truly, I struggle daily with him and having him believe that he has a say and his say matters. The only thing he says is ‘let me drop out of school, if I have a say and it matters’. How do we reach these kinds of kids? They are the ones that NEED a voice.” Well, Momma, it sounds like your kid is sharing their voice, and you just don’t want to hear what he’s saying. I do believe that his words mean something, but I am not convinced they can be taken at face value: Within the phrase “Let me drop out of school” there is a lot of meaning that can, and should, be explored with the student. Explore that together, give your child a sense of authority and responsibility, and expand from there.

“I think that letting the students have more say in their education is a good idea as long as they as a group agree on the topics and that the school has the last say.” – From JillieBean

This last phrase might bother me the most, because like so many young teachers, this student believes that there must be ONE student voice. That effectively reinforces the current structures that exist to engage student voice in schools by squelching the diversity of perspectives that students have. There is no room for dissention when everybody must agree on the same line. And that last part of the sentence, well, that’s another topic for a different day.

Thanks to students in the EDU 221 class at Metropolitan State College in Denver for providing more fodder for the cannon. Next week I’ll take apart the Constitution of the United States of America…

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