Learning is not something that is “done to us”; rather, learning happens when we are engaged, when we bring our experience to the table, when we admit what we don’t know and we take collective responsibility with our peers to create new knowledge. Educators do not simply impart information. We create environments that facilitate the type of collaborative inquiry that allows us to serve our students better, providing them with the opportunities to create, to think, to wonder, to invent and to serve.
In order to create effective learning environments in HWDSB, I have been paying a lot of attention to the importance of voice. When I use the word “voice” , I am referring to our collective ability to listen to each other, our students, staff and parents in a way that makes a difference to what we do and how we do it. Our annual operating plan is clear: We “know our students, know our staff, and we know our parents and communities” so that our students learn better. In today’s blog I will focus on student voice.
Recently, I attended our student leadership forum. Students from our elementary and secondary schools gathered to think about how they could make their school and our community a better place. I was inspired by our students who are absolutely sure they will make a difference. What role do educators play to create the caring environment that supports all students to share their leadership? As we engage our students, are we responding to their voice by actually changing what we do because of what they say? Our mission is that all students will achieve their full potential….not just some of our students. This means we need to find ways to hear those students whose voices are not always understood by us, or whose voice is quiet, or who may not have been invited to speak at all. We also need to be sure that we encourage our students to help us understand them. This will only happen if our students have confidence that we will do everything we can to respond to them when we hear and understand what they are saying…….
A final thought: I was visiting one of our schools last week and was speaking to one of our students who was showing tremendous progress in his program. I asked him what was making the difference? He told me “I believe in myself now because of what I have been learning”. Another student told me that her teacher taught her her how to advocate for herself when she did not understand the teacher’s expectations. Both of these students are achieving.
My question to each one of us who serve students in HWDSB: Are we listening?
All students deserve to believe in themselves!!