I learned a lot last week! I had the opportunity to attend three student voice forums in HWDSB. I met with 500 students in our Board. My opening message to them had three components. My message was: 1) Every student is a leader 2) Each student needs to experience a sense of belonging and support in our schools and 3) We need our students’ voices to help us understand the learning spaces, experiences and processes they need.
I asked our students to help us, the educators, listen so that we can respond more effectively. I pledged our commitment to do whatever we can to respond to their insights and perspectives. This commitment does not mean we can fulfill every wish our students spoke about, but we can certainly strengthen our communication so that our decisions as a school system are directly informed by our students.
After this brief introduction our students were invited to offer their insights through small group discussion, individual reflection, podcasts, blogs, and “graffiti” walls. Our students offered insights about safety and bullying, learning environments and experiences, our accommodation and review process, our board and school policies, our assessment and evaluation procedures and other insights meant to help us create safe and caring schools which assist them to achieve.
They spoke about technology and nutrition. They wondered about their role in creating safer schools. They appreciated when they could connect with their teachers in different ways at school and through co-curricular activities. And some students discussed why the accommodation and review process is so challenging for them, even though they sometimes dream about learning in school facilities that are different than some of our existing school facilities.
One student said to me “our student body is diverse. We have different strengths and needs. We have different learning styles and interests. And yet some of our classes are taught as if we are all the same.”
This statement is certainly a challenge to educators in HWDSB to “know our students”, one of the foundations of our Annual Operating Plan.
“All students achieving their full potential” is our goal. We cannot achieve this goal without listening and responding to our students!
I was inspired by our students and I am grateful for their energy, their commitment and their suggestions. I will post the major themes from these forums shortly.