The growing trend of increasing student voice and choice in schools is opening authentic opportunities for dialogues between students and adults. Students, when given the opportunity to present to educators and administrators, almost always deliver on a level far beyond what many think middle schoolers are capable of.
And that’s exactly what’s been happening at Colchester Middle School.
An opportunity to stay grounded in student voice
Every other Monday the Colchester Leadership Team meets to discuss and plan opportunities for the school. On one particular Monday, the team walked in and was greeted by a team of four students, ready with presentation and proposal. Surprise!
Even though this was not on the agenda the educators were excited to hear what students had to say. Their language arts teacher, Amy Tosh, explained the genesis of the presentation was an argumentative essay assignment.
The students had come with a purpose: to discuss scheduling.
CMS students present to Leadership team about block scheduling as a part of flexible pathways to argumentative writing and purpose. @CSDAmyMinor #flexiblepathways#authenticstudentvoice pic.twitter.com/dZvzafmuWq
— CMS (@CMSPrincipals) December 4, 2017
The students shared their thinking about how Colchester’s teams use time, referring to the common 40-45 minute block of time for each subject. As such, they proposed that the school move to more of a block schedule, featuring longer blocks for each period. And their rational was to be able to have more time for deeper learning, with a presentation that was articulate and research-based, including data from a student survey.
The teachers took notice.
And they agreed to look into the students’ proposal.
From Passion Project to faculty presentation
On another occasion, Colchester sixth grader Moorea presented her Passion Project to the whole faculty. With fiftyish adults in the room she jumped right in, as if having a conservation with her best friend.
Leading with her focus question of “What’s the best way to engage middle schoolers?” the student shared her passion of becoming a teacher one day, and shared her curiosity about the learning process.
Her presentation lead Colchester’s administration to agree to a student committee to study this focus question. After the presentation, the faculty spoke about how to include students in shaping the direction of the school. Result!
How can you open your faculty meeting to students?
This trend for Colchester students to open faculty meetings is one that has serious roots and will continue to grow. Our work is tough and we need this shot of energy from our students to keep us passionate and focused. By the same token, it’s our duty to allow students to have a voice in this world, and especially in decisions being made about their schools.