“Youth Voice”, as it were, cannot be engaged in schools. Once a young person walks through the doors of a school building, they are automatically thrust into the role of learner, which we call “student”. Their public and private roles, that of youth or child (or kid, kiddo, yute, youngin’, etc) are automatically and completely stripped from their person, and they have a completely different job. They are students. When I work in schools I am not looking for youth voice; rather, I am seeking to engage youth voice in the place youth voice exists: schools. Therefore, I am seeking student voice – a subtle, yet important distinction.
This week I am in Connecticut attending a retreat on school change for educators. While I’m doing a mini-session on meaningful student involvement, this week I am mostly a student myself, here to co-learn with folks within schools. As I think about what I want from this week, I am led to think about how I present meaningful student involvement to schools. Here’s the gist of it: Meaningful student involvement is the deliberate and powerful engagement of all students in the school improvement process, for the purpose of strengthening their commitment to education, community and democracy. Sounds good, no? Ah, but it is full of holes! This week I hope to flesh out some of those holes and begin to construct a more comprehensive definition.
Wish me luck, and feel free to share your two cents.