Friday, May 6, 2016

Year 6: Week 33 – Voice

One of our goals at our school is to help develop in our students their personal voice. We put a priority on making sure that students feel heard and that they play an active role as a member of the school community.

This comes out in making sure that students listen to each other during class discussions but it’s more than that. It’s allowing students to have choices in what they want to study, ways they that they work and creating an atmosphere where students can speak their mind.

For students to have a voice in the school takes a lot of work by the teachers. It would be easier to run our school and our classrooms closer to a dictatorship, but we lean into the challenge. Instead of telling students that their opinion is wrong or inappropriate, the conversation is usually focused on timing. I’m always open to hear a student tell me about how they don’t like a song that we are learning, but I’m not going to let them blurt this out in the middle of class.

This gets really tricky at time because students don’t always understand what things are debatable or what things they need to do without discussion. Because even with things that aren’t debatable, our students still deserve an explanation they can understand, like why we need to be quiet during fire drills.

While this can get clouded with expression of entitlement for a couple kids, for most of my students our efforts to help them have their voices be heard is really appreciated. But man, this can make for some rowdy classrooms and some frustrating moments, but it’s worth it.

After watching my son go from communicating with his crying, then facial expressions and baby sign language to finally words, I’ve realized how much of a struggle it is for children to feel understood. This is a struggle that doesn’t stop and without having the space and time to work on this, children feel marginalized and undervalued.

Are we teaching students information or are we teaching our students how to learn? If we are truly invested in students having an educational experience that helps them learn how to learn, take ownership of the process of their growth and develop tools to be successful agents of change in the world, nurturing their voice is central to education.

In the cacophony of a classroom, sometimes it’s hard to hear all the voices. So we find time during recess, in the hallways or during lunch to make sure that we hear each voice, no matter how quiet and validate their thoughts with our attention.  When we show that we care about their voice, our students feel that we care for them and it is in this feeling that students find themselves and feel safe to let their voices be heard by the world.

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