The most important thing when engaging students in any role in school is to acknowledge their first duty: Learning. Their learning is paramount to being meaningfully involved throughout schools. Learning through meaningful student involvement should include: stated learning goals, meaningful action, and sustained, deep reflection.
Following are a several roles students can have that can transform schools and education forever.
Roles for Students throughout the Education System
Knowledge comes from study, experience, and reflection. Engaging students as learning guides and facilitators helps reinforce their commitment to learning and the subject they are teaching; it can also engage both young and older learners in exciting ways.
Identifying issues, surveying interests, analyzing findings, and developing projects in response are all powerful avenues for Student Voice.
Planning includes program design, event planning, curriculum development, and hiring staff. Students planning activities can lend validity, creativity, and applicability to abstract concepts and broad outcomes.
Community organizing happens when leaders bring together everyone in a community in a role that fosters social change. Students community organizers focus on issues that affect themselves and their communities; they rally their peers, families, and community members for action.
When students stand for their beliefs and understand the impact of their voices, they can represent their families and communities with pride, courage, and ability.
Assessing and evaluating the effects of programs, classes, activities, and projects can promote Student Voice in powerful ways. Students can learn that their opinions are important, and their experiences are valid indicators of success.
Envisioning roles for students to teach students is relatively easy; seeing new roles for students to teach adults is more challenging. Students specialists bring expert knowledge about particular subjects to programs and organizations, enriching everyone’s ability to be more effective.
When students advise adults they provide genuine knowledge, wisdom, and ideas to each other, adults, schools, and education agencies, and other locations and activities that affect them and their world at large.
Students participate in creating intentional, strategic plans for an array of activities, including curriculum, building construction, students and community programs, and more.
Facilitating learning for themselves, other students and educators, other adults in schools, or adults throughout our schools can be teachers of small and large groups in all kinds of topics.
Students can identify funding, distribute grants, evaluate effectiveness, and conduct other parts of the process involved in grant-making.
Influencing policy-makers, legislators, politicians, and the people who work for them are among the activities for students as lobbyists.
When they train adults, students, children, and others, youth can share their wisdom, ideas, knowledge, attitudes, actions, and processes in order to guide programs, nurture organization and community cultures, and change the world.
Running for political office at the community, city, county, or state levels, students can be politicians in a variety of positions. In some places, they can run for school boards or as education trustees too.
Students as Recruiters
Students building excitement, sharing motivation, or otherwise helping their peers and other people to get involved, create change, or make all sorts of things happen throughout schools and the entire education system.
When students recognize a social problem, they can use entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make schools and their communities change.
When schools hire students, they can be staff members in schools and throughout the education system. They can fulfill many roles on this list in paid positions.
Students as Mentors
Mentoring is a non-hierarchical relationship between students and adults, adults and students, or among students themselves, that helps facilitate learning and guidance for each participant.
Making rules in classrooms is not the only way to engage students in decision-making. Participating in formal and informal decision-making, students can be school board members, education committee members, and in many different roles throughout schools.
As activity leaders in schools and education agencies, students can facilitate, teach, guide, direct, and otherwise lead youth, adults, and children in a variety of ways.
When they research, plan, write, and evaluate education rules, regulations, laws, and other policies, students as policy-makers can enrich, substantiate, enliven, and impact the outcomes of policies and schools in many ways.
Struggling for education transformation, school improvement and educational justice, student activists may lead immediate, solo, large group and whole school efforts to make a difference in K-12 schools.
These are merely some of the roles. What others can YOU think of? It is also important to consider the issues you want to address. Have questions? Need ideas? Share your thoughts in the comments section!