Every adult throughout the education system must engage student voice.
Student voice is any expression of any student related to learning, teaching, schools or education. Student voice is not any single activity, and it is not focused on any one thing. Instead, it is every single expression focused on anything about the activity of learning, the institution of schools, or the process of education.
Whether you’re a teacher, principal, school counselor, coach, librarian, school board member, parent, teacher aide, district staff, or any of the countless other roles adults have throughout the education system, you have opportunities and a responsibility to engage student voice. Your imagination is your only boundary. It is the ethical responsibility of adults throughout the education system to engage student voice.
Following are examples of everyday activities that adults can do to support, empower, and involve students throughout the education system.
50 Ways Adults Can Engage Student Voice
- Have a real conversation with a student. Ask a student what they want to do find out how you can help make that happen.
- Actively support student-led action however possible, including working with students out-of-school to accomplish their goals in education.
- Start a resource library at your school that will inspire students to make change. Include books, websites, and organizations working on democracy, social change, school improvement, and youth power.
- Use active learning methods to teach students about education, including service learning and constructivism. Build on what they already know.
- Develop a student-adult partnership program in your school where students and educators can actually discuss school together.
- Create a student action center in your school for students to become involved in changing their school and communities.
- Use participatory action research in your classroom for students to take action in your school.
- Be an advocate for students at school meetings. Make sure students are at the table whenever your school is making choices about students.
- Create classroom lesson plans that actively engage students in critical thinking about education and action that changes schools.
- Make students concerns visible in your school by posting them in your classroom and sharing them at meetings where adults are.
- Sponsor a letter with students to the administration about student issues.
- Respect students as you do adults. Don’t expect more from students than you do adults and don’t interpret for students what they can say for themselves.
- Co-design a lesson plan with students about education reform and student involvement.
- Listen specifically to students whose voices are seldom heard in schools, including students who are minority, low-income, have low grades, or don’t interact with their peers.
- Host an activity for students and educators to encourage student-adult partnerships.
- Engage students as classroom consultants, interns, apprentices, and activities staff.
- Be consistent and clear about your expectations of students in your classroom.
- Team up with students to have a town meeting or school forum for everyone at your school.
- Identify and network with students in your school who are concerned about their school.
- Connect with other adult allies who want to involve students meaningfully, both in your school and others, and around the community.
- Include students in hiring adults at your school, including staff, teachers, and administrators.
- Arrange resources for students who would not otherwise be able to participate in school activities, including transportation, permission, and childcare.
- Support political candidates for local, state, and national office who make listening and working with young people a priority.
- Arrange for a radio station to sponsor a call-in show led by students that allows them to talk about their concerns about school.
Arrange an meeting with the principal for students to highlight the concerns and recommendations they have for school.
- Create a school-wide vision for student involvement and voice that includes adults and students.
- Serve on an advisory board for a student-led effort.
- Refuse to attend meetings where students are not invited or where you can not bring students with you.
- Be a real, active, and engaged friend to students.
- Discourage unfair opportunities for students based on academic performance, attendance, race, gender, etc.
- Create student-led experiences in your classroom and throughout your school.
- Make your classroom a comfortable, safe, and affirming place so students can “hang-out.”
- Help students create a newsletter, or work with your school newspaper, to share students’ concerns about their school and education.
- Help students create a listing of all opportunities for their involvement in your school and community.
- Call for your school to have regular student evaluations of themselves, teachers, administrators, and classes that influence performance evaluations, contracts, and hiring.
- Ask a student for help. If they know about computers, ask them to assist you. If they understand diversity, ask them to teach you.
- Sponsor a support group for students who face particular difficulties such as parents’ divorce, violence, etc.
- Raise funds for a student-led organization focusing on school issues.
- Actively support youth-led organizations in your community, and encourage them to address education reform.
- Join (or form) with students a community task force to address youth issues and coordinate responses in schools.
- Prepare students for multiple roles in your school, including learner, teacher, and leader.
- Ask students’ advice on school issues you are wrestling with.
- Be an advocate for student involvement and student/adult partnerships throughout the education system.
- Start an adult support group to share ideas, concerns, and ways to listen better to students.
- Recognize student involvement. Don’t assume that just because someone is a student that they enjoy school. Help them appreciate it by giving class credit or through other meaningful recognition.
- Include students on committees in professional education organizations.
- Hold students accountable for their mistakes and challenges. Be honest and forthright with young people, and support their efforts to improve.
- Treat students as individuals. One student cannot represent all students, and must learn how to represent themselves. Teach them.
- Speak to students with respect, and avoid interrupting students.
- Involve students from the beginning of class by having them create a list of their own expectations for the climate of the classroom through the end by having them conduct self-, class-, and teacher-evaluations.
- Become a systemwide advocate by continuing your movement towards Meaningful Student Involvement by calling for student voice throughout the education system, and by offering yourself and your classroom as a resource consistently.
- Creating Action Between Students and Adults
- 20 Ways Students Can Improve Schools
- 65 Ways Students Can Share Student Voice
- The Guide to Student Voice