I am excited to see so many educators on social media discussing student voice and how to get more students engaged; I truly am. Many educators discuss the need to:
- foster a culture of choice
- nurture curiosity through inquiry
- ensure experiential learning is integrated throughout your practice
- provide authentic, daily feedback and seek it back
- learn about student passions, strengths, and needs
- think a-louds
- connect identity to lessons at hand
- provide links to the world
The list can go on and on and rightfully so. There are many ways that educators can effectively put students first and allow student voices of all backgrounds and engagement levels to the forefront of one’s practice.
However, the little skeptic in my head keeps nagging me. It is calling into question my experiences 20+ years ago when I was in school. At some point or another, several of my teachers truly believed in me and made me believe that they did. They did not sugar coat anything, in fact, a few of these teachers were quite diligent about putting me in my place and teaching me to use my voice in a way that meant something and with intention. These teachers, as strict as they could be when it came to ensuring we reached our potential, also made class exciting every day and best of all, fun. These educators knew that making education fun and exciting could lead to more students being engaged. It was like they were intentionally trying to play devils advocate or an individualized version of good cop/bad cop with us, and it worked.
Then it dawned on me, these teachers believed in student voice not because someone told them it was the right thing to do through pedagogy or best practices, but through their true intrinsic motivation to be part of a profession that can change the world one student at a time; and that my friends, is where the nagging voice gets to the point thanks to Dr. Seuss.
Unless an educator truly believes in the power of student voice, the effective use of student voice may be for not. A mutual respect of understanding needs to exist between the educator and student, each must believe in the potential of the other through mutual understanding no matter what age the child, or teacher is. Controversial, I know but I suppose sometimes “[disturbing] the status quo of educational practices” is what shifts education forward (Dana, 2009, 135-136).
Going back to my own personal educational experiences, I believe that educators need to reflect on all the great educational moments that they had growing up and apply those positive, happy thoughts into their daily practice. Students intuitively know when we are off, it is as if they have ESP or something like that but they also read our energy when we are truly excited about learning, their learning.
Passion for education is a two way street. Student voice will be at its best when the educator is at his/her best. The old Confucius proverb “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” perhaps is a close approximation of what I am going for here but alas, we all know the roller coaster ride that is a day in the life of a teacher. Regardless, love what you do by showing it on your face, in your actions, and in your tone.
I leave you with this: When was the last time you said to yourself, “I am super excited to have fun in class today learning with my students?” My hope that this is something you think about daily in an effort to maximize the learning environment of your students and in turn, their passion for learning and using their voice.