Do We Involve Our Students Enough?

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by kindercapes

I have always wondered just how much we could involve our students in the planning and operations of our schools? As the year winds down and we start the planning for next year I spend a great deal of time working on things like timetables, schedules, student handbooks and class groupings. I work on these things alone or together with my principal, but never even speak to a student about how we might improve the way we run our school. Our school will plan an entire year, hire teachers and spend thousands of dollars without the input from the real customers. Is that right?

You hear those stories of schools that include students in their teacher interviews, schools that have a student representative at staff meetings etc. but they of course are a rarity and not many of us have worked in these types of situations. I know, for me, the more I involve my students in the planning of their classes, the decisions about consequences and even for advice on my own job performance, the more they feel a part of what we are doing and are more willing to give my lesson and me as an educator more of a chance.

So much of what I do, and probably what many of you do, is trying to predict what our students need to learn, how they would like to learn, what kind of school they want to be a part of. Funny, we are trying to predict what they are thinking, or maybe even tell them what is best for them. I HATE when people do that to me. There is no doubt our students feel more entitled, more independent and more empowered then they ever have. With this type of student wandering our halls we must be crazy to keep dictating to them how our schools will look, act and work.

I am always open to a kid telling me, in a respectful way, a rule is “stupid” or “pointless” and a lot of them time they are right. Most of the time the question they ask me about a rule is “Why?” and sometimes I am just not able to provide a good enough reason to satisfy their question. I am starting to think if we really want to get students to embrace their school, take ownership of it and be proud of being a student there, is to really involve them in as much as we possibly can.

Kids are smart, and capable of more than we give them credit for. I think we dismiss them from the planning and operating of our buildings because we believe they are too young, too naive and too irresponsible to be a part of the process. I am pretty sure kids can be part of it, and slowly we may allow them more and more input, and I doubt we’ll ever be disappointed with the results. We should let these little superheroes help us with the problems we can’t always solve.

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