Summer Camp Day One: What Is Student Voice?

The SoundOut Summer Camp began on Monday, August 3rd. Hosted by Cleveland High School in south Seattle, the school is home to the twenty students who are attending camp. Tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades are all represented, with twelve girls and eight boys total.

On day one of camp, we focus on exploring the question, “What is student voice?” A seemingly simple query, this quickly expands into other questions too. “What is learning”, “What is teaching”, “Who are students”, “What is school for” and “Why listen” are all thrown out during the day.

Students spend a lot of time today in large group work, making room for each other through teambuilding activities and other group work. At the beginning of the day, there is a lot of hemming and hawing, but by the middle of the day one of the students says, “I’ve done these games and others like them before, but I never knew they could have so much purpose.” I focus the students on finding the metaphor of the games and drawing out a higher meaning, and it works sometimes.

As the first day comes to a conclusion, there’s a general sense of purpose and possibility within the group. Some students express great hope for their schooling, while others seem blasè about what’s happening. A few are actually forlorn. I want to still hope without it being false; with gentrification, white privilege and the hidden curriculum on the table, that could be an uphill struggle.

On the door into the classroom, the regular teacher has a placard that says, “Life is a beautiful struggle.” Today, students walk away after saying as a group, “School is a beautiful struggle.” Tomorrow, we’ll unpack why.

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