Students Speak: Why Student Voice Matters to Adult Learning
Student leadership is essential to our success as we work to transform schools into hubs of opportunity for all students. We can't succeed without them. That’s why participants at the 2021 Virtual Summit, Lifting Our Gaze: Students Lead the Way (ELVS21), have the privilege of attending Learning Labs co-imagined, co-designed, and co-facilitated by educators and students. This brings authentic student voice and leadership to a whole new level as these diverse design teams work together to deliver game-changing learning experiences to their audience. We spoke with one team at River Bluff High School in Lexington, SC where 10th grade students Orlandria, Anton, and TJ have been hard at work with their teacher Ms. Apryl Henry, preparing to lead their session called Fearlessly Jumping Into The Deep End. Get a sneak peak at their Learning Lab and their value for student-centered design and professional learning.
What is your Learning Lab about? What do you hope the biggest takeaway will be?
Apryl Henry: Our session is a case study of the English Prep Lab we used at River Bluff High School during the 2020/2021 school year. The goal of English Prep Lab was to help build students’ confidence as readers. We were successful through the use of high-interest texts, personalized assessment tools, and a lot of teacher/student reflection.
Yet English Prep Lab became so much more. It became a home where teachers and students discussed and shared a love of reading and contemporary books as well as a place where students set goals, advocated for themselves, dug into personal identity, and had honest and real conversations about academic growth.
We want ELVS21 participants to see, hear, and experience how important relationships are with students. We want our successful experience with English Prep Lab to inspire other teachers to create something similar at their own school.
Why is it so important for participants to learn from students, not just adults?
Anton: We have our own experiences to share and it is different hearing right from a student. For example, I can share the perspective that before meeting Ms. Henry and taking English Prep Lab, I didn’t really care about school and my grades weren’t that important to me. Then I met Ms. Henry and I wanted to do better because I had someone counting on me to do better.
It is important for students to tell their own stories. For me, being in English Prep Lab was a reality check. Ms. Henry believed I could be great and so I did that. I have grown into a more confident reader and student and it matters that I can say that myself.
Apryl: It’s all about believing in your students and giving them the tools to believe in themselves. All of these kids were capable of doing what they are doing without me but they needed to be pushed and see it in themselves!
Students, if you were a teacher, what would you do differently to support students?
Anton: Getting to know my teacher makes a big difference and motivates me to do my work. I know not every teacher is going to help me no matter what and I think teachers need to earn my trust. I’m not saying I’ve been a troubled student but I didn’t care that much about school, I didn’t care that much about my grades. Miss Henry cared enough to get involved with my personal life. She helped me connect with other teachers and she let me know that she was there for me with grades and discipline too.
Orlandria: Teachers really need to explain well, be patient, and go slow. I would make classes smaller so there could be more energy for each student.
Anton: I’ve learned to communicate with teachers and work with them. Teachers earn my trust when they are there for me. More teachers should put in that energy.