8 Rules for Student/Adult Partnerships

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The vision of student/adult partnerships is at the core of Meaningful Student Involvement. The idea was that students could learn more effectively by partnering with teachers and other adults in the education system to provide vision, connection and support in learning, teaching and leadership. I have have been grateful to learn a LOT from my work in this area!

8 Rules for Student/Adult Partnerships

A student/adult partnership is an intentionally equitable intergenerational relationship. They can happen any place at anytime for nearly any purpose. Here are eight rules I have seen through my experience and research.

  1. Make it personal. The most powerful relationships in young peoples’ lives are filled with intrinsic rewards, not extrinsic ones. Student/adult partnerships aren’t obvious through gold stars and hashmarks on the whiteboard; instead, they are felt in the heart and seen in the mind. Student engagement is personal, not predictable.
  2. Transparency is key. Honesty and authenticity are requirements for student equity with adults. When adults learn to share the details of a situation (including who, what, when, where, how, and most importantly, why), young people can invest and own activities in outcomes in ways they cannot otherwise.
  3. The goal is engagement. Academic achievement might happen through student engagement, but its not a guarantee. Learning will happen whether it’s demonstrable or not. The goals of student/adult partnerships is engagement, which, when sustained, is a greater outcome than anything currently graded in schools.
  4. Student voice is a journey. Student voice must be supported for student engagement, but it is not the goal. It’s a journey, an ever-evolving process that
  5. Motivation is great, but focus on partnerships. Sometimes students lose steam for partnerships, and adults might too! Staying focused is vital though, and motivation will happen as long as student/adult partnerships are the target.
  6. This is not a game. Everyday, young people are discriminated against because of their age. This happens in schools, at home, and throughout their communities. Compounding this is racism, as well as classism, sexism and other biases. Student/adult partnerships can include playing and fun, but we must intentionally transform our relationships with students in order to save our society and their lives.
  7. Beware unintended consequences. You know what happens when you set a target? People aim for it! If young people experience youth/adult partnerships in your class, in your after school program, at your summer camp, or in any other single place in your community, they will want to experience student/adult partnerships in every other place throughout your community!
  8. Student/adult partnerships are a process, not a project. Once you start partnerships with learners, they don’t stop. You should commit your entire school year to fostering student/adult partnerships, and understand that they can blow the doors off the 8-3 classroom. Instead, plan on committing significant portions of your planning time, out-of-school time, and even your personal time to supporting your student partners in equitable ways. If you can’t do that, don’t try it.

These are eight rules for student/adult partnerships.

Don’t be afraid!

Don’t be afraid of them! Unlike many others working to improve education today, there are some districts that are fully supportive of student/adult partnerships as a powerful tool in classrooms, hallways, offices and boardrooms.

They can be about more than student engagement; some schools and youth-serving nonprofits foster student/adult partnerships in order to build community, foster democracy in action, and build significant project-based learning opportunities. However, even if you don’t do any of those things, that’s OK. For many young people, any partnership with an adult is more powerful than what they experience right now.

What would YOU add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts — share them in the comments section below!

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.

Transforming Schools Today

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Its an understatement to say, “Kill and Drill is dead,” and “Sage on the stage is sleeping.” After 18+ months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all know that things cannot keep being the same. It is time to massively transform schools today.

For my entire career, I’ve been saying that we need to address the very core of education. In the last few months, I’ve come to understand what that core is: We need to stop measuring the success of public schools based on academic achievement. Instead, we need to focus on student engagement.

How Schools See Student Engagement

  1. Engagement is just for some students, not all
  2. Some students will be engaged, many won’t
  3. Students are the leaders of tomorrow
  4. Stereotypes are okay as long as they serve teachers
  5. Adults in schools know better than students
  6. Teachers do things for and to students
  7. Its best to segregate students by age
  8. At best, teachers should mentor students
  9. Students would go wild without adult control

Student engagement—which happens anytime learners choose the same things over and over—is the heart of learning, teaching, and leadership throughout the education system. It should be the whole goal, purpose, function, and outcome of all schooling everywhere, all the time. If learners aren’t choosing something we want them to, either consciously or unconsciously, then we’re failing them.

If learners aren’t choosing something we want them to, either consciously or unconsciously, then we’re failing them.

Academic achievement merely rates a students’ compliance with the directives, control, and management of educators. It does not measure the passion, desire, interests, or even abilities of learners. Student engagement positions all of those as the utmost important outcomes.

New Ways to See Student Engagements

  1. Students are influencers throughout their peers and communities
  2. Active engagement of every student is essential
  3. Students do no have monolithic engagement or voices
  4. Underrepresented and marginalized students need action now
  5. Student engagement is for all students
  6. Students are the leaders of today and aren’t waiting for tomorrow
  7. Teachers do things with students and engage students in doing things for themselves
  8. Engaging all learners of all ages in solving serious education problems is essential
  9. All adults throughout the education system should be mentored by students

For more than 20 years, I have worked to support K-12 schools, districts, and state education agencies taking powerful, positive strides towards transforming schools today with student engagement. I offer professional development, consultation, and several programs to move in that direction.

I’d love to hear what you think! Share your thoughts below or contact me right away.

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.

The Student Power Movement in 2021

Nationwide, K-12 schools and districts have definite problems meeting tech needs right now. Every year Education Week shares a report called “Technology Counts,” and this year, during the pandemic, the biggest repeating issue isn’t student connectivity, but tech problems. Underfunded districts, over-burdened teachers, and incapacitated students are the many cause of these problems.

This isn’t just some big picture problem, either. Instead, it affects nearly every teacher in every classroom around the world right now. Earlier this week, a teacher friend of mine posted this as their status:

Dumpster fire. The most accurate description of my 4 lessons today, technology issues in every class, can’t easily see student work (beyond frustrating), exit tickets take more than 10 minutes of my precious class time. Hybrid teaching is *really* freaking hard. If you know a teacher, thank them because this is not what any teacher wants to be doing right now.

More than ever before, every part of the education system needs to be supporting teachers right now. This is true whether they’re facilitating online, hybrid, or in-person classes right now. As much as possible.

For more than two decades I’ve been working in schools, I have always called on one consistent force to support teachers, and that is student power. Student power is made of three parts:

  • Skills: Concrete and unnamed abilities to get things done
  • Knowledge: Constructed and collected facts and information
  • Traits: Distinguishing qualities or characteristics

Right now, our nonprofit is creating new ways to engage student power throughout the education system right now, and we want you to join us.

This year, almost 100 K-12 schools nationwide are joining me on this journey. Facilitators are participating in weekly meetings, teachers in a dozen states are coming to our workshops, and students are working hard in their schools right now. We have a lot more coming fast, and the doors are wide open for your energy, excitement and enthusiasm!

Are you interested in joining the Student Power Movement? Send me an email and I’ll share details with you.

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.