Since 2002, working through SoundOut, I have worked with more than 10,000 K-12 students and educators in schools across the United States and Canada.
Over the last year, I have been a bit consumed by writing the Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook. Its my complete compendium of what I have learned about engaging students as partners throughout the education system.
In my reflections, I have found four themes constantly emerge from my projects. These are lessons for me that I will continue to teach people into the future.
- Unacknowledged capability: Students of all ages, identities, achievement levels, and social backgrounds are fully capable of becoming partners throughout education, but are rarely engaged in equitable partnerships that allow them to take action.
- Untapped wisdom: Students have a lot to say about the schools they are attending and the education they’re receiving, but rarely feel like adults want to hear what they say.
- Undelivered invitations: Students are almost never invited to participate in school governance, educational research, learning evaluations or substantive decision-making about classroom instruction, school improvement or educational leadership.
- Unmet human resources: Adults are craving more human resources throughout schools, but rarely consider students as potential partners who could lighten the load and secure success.
I have tried hard to document dozens of cases of Meaningful Student Involvement and describe how handfuls of students are engaged in planning, researching, teaching, evaluating, making decisions, and advocating for their own learning, as well as throughout the education system as a whole. In each case, these lessons shine through. They also shown through my own projects in dozens of states and a few countries. Its a consistent pattern, yet fraught with hope.
As I assess my big ole picture of student/adult partnerships, I am left wondering about how important Meaningful Student Involvement will become to the education system. We cannot be satisfied with tokenizing students, or simplistic attempts to listen to student voice. Instead, we want to transform all of learning, teaching and leadership.
Onward we go!