S is for Listening to Student voices

| April 10, 2014

How do we welcome and celebrate student voices? They have so much to say. I not just talking about talking. Rather, they can tell educators so much: their hopes and dreams, certainly, but also what they care about. I didn’t always, but now I make it a regular part of our class time for students to give their opinions on the readings and projects we do, room arrangements, seating, etc. I am totally willing to accept constructive criticism from my students, but I press them to offer suggestions, alternatives, etc. Students need to take part in constructing their space and their learning experience.
As a public education teacher, I have little control over my schedule or class composition. I am assigned students, space, and subject matter. Yet I have a great deal of control over the kind of classroom community we create. In the latest project we did, I made sure that the students knew that they were not writing or communicating just to me. The goal was for them to persuade, inform, and challenge each other. I think, too often, the teacher becomes the only audience that matters in the classroom.
In the wake of the Common Core, we’re preparing to infuse much more literature into the Social Studies classroom. I was chatting with some students about a book by Grace Lin Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and I remarked that it might be confusing for some students. I was immediately contradicted by some very thoughtful readers. A few days later I formed a student advisory book group because I really need the students’ insights in order to build my classroom library. I read from a very different, and teacherly perspective.