From my research and experience working in with than 300 K-12 schools, districts, and state education agencies, I have identified two types of student voice in schools: convenient and inconvenient.

Using these to teach students and adults about student voice, I have found this understanding can help people grasp which issues student voice can address through Meaningful Student Involvement.

Convenient or inconvenient: Not all youth voice is the same
  • Convenient Student Voice entails students saying or doing things that adults are comfortable with. When students talk about the non-curricular things that most directly impact them, such as cafeteria food, textbook conditions, or bathroom usage, they are generally offering convenient student voice. 

    Convenient student voice usually comes from students who are already seen by the adults as positive role models in the school—a student leadership class, for instance, or members of the Honors Society.

  • Inconvenient Student Voice happens when students bring up ideas and taking actions that adults do not expect or are uncomfortable hearing. These topics can be those that impact teaching or governance at the school, or even be topics that some adults themselves want to discuss but fear bringing up due to the administration or other outside forces.  

    Inconvenient student voice often comes from students who are not seen as leaders by adults, or who feel alienated by the school, and it might come at times and places that adults are not expecting.  

Both convenient and inconvenient student voice are important to Meaningful Student Involvement, and both have a role to play in creating positive, powerful school change.

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Adam F. C. Fletcher helps organizations engage people more successfully. Contact him by calling (360) 489-9680 or emailing info@adamfletcher.net.

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