Elements of Student/Adult Partnerships

SoundOut Student/Adult Partnerships

The following elements were identified to help adults and students understand what Student/Adult Partnerships behave throughout education. When students are genuinely supported in schools, Student/Adult Partnerships can be successfully brokered in schools. Many of these elements were originally identified by 500 students and adults from across the United States

When SoundOut was first started, we worked with more than 500 students and adults from across the United States to identify these “Elements of Student/Adult Partnerships,” and they’ve informed the hundreds of projects we’ve led since. Share your thoughts about them in the comments!

1. Authentic Engagement

Authentic engagement for students is required for Student/Adult Partnerships. The first way to do this is be making it real: Open the doors for real Meaningful Student Involvement right now throughout education.

Allow students to address every variety of educational activity that affects them by learning to listen, validate, authorize, mobilize, and reflect on schools. Seek nothing less than full Student/Adult Partnerships for every learner in school, and encourage students to expect meaningfulness.

That means not letting any member of the school community be apathetic, whether they are students or adults.

2. Mutual Respect

Respect is mutual between students and adults, and when you give it, you receive it. Creating a culture of respect shatters stereotypes based on age for both students and adults.

Students respect adults in schools who listen and ask challenging questions. Creating a culture of respect provides all people—both students and adults—the opportunity to act on their dreams and learn from their mistakes.

3. Positive Communication

Adults must listen up and students must hear, because an honest and open exchange of ideas is crucial.

Students are best heard when adults step back and students speak up, and adults are best heard when they are straight forward and explain where they are coming from.

All people’s ideas and opinions in schools are valuable to the educational process and the educational system, and each must be heard.

4. Active Investment

Meaningful Student Involvement takes time. For adults, it’s important to remember that investing in the future is accepting that students are leaders today.

Students and adults must first set their fears aside and take a chance on each other. Adults must provide students with the information, education and support they will need to succeed, and should strive to develop their own ability to engage students.

Strong Student/Adult Partnerships require patience and courage.

5. Meaningful Action

Count students in by making it meaningful. When decisions about students are made, they should be made with students. All adults in schools should strive to be allies to students by not acting as adversaries.

Adults need to support students in taking on responsibility based on what they can do, not what they have done. Reflection helps everyone appreciate the importance of their education—for themselves, for their communities and for their lives.

In Student/Adult Partnerships, students and adults must hold each other accountable for all their decisions and actions. Students and teachers should continually reflect on, analyze, and challenge the impact of schools in their lives.

Closing Considerations

When students are genuinely supported through Student/Adult Partnerships, Meaningful Student Involvement can be successfully fostered. Many students, educators, parents, and other advocates have argued that any form of student involvement is inherently meaningful for students, as if there is inherent meaning in being involved. That may be true, if only because there is meaning in not being involved. Many students have reported that not being involved in student government activities, sports, extracurricular clubs, and other traditional forms of student involvement affected their self-esteem, cultural identity, and critical thinking, ultimately negatively impacting their engagement as students.


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