We want the students to express their voice. There are numerous studies that demonstrate a positive link between student voice and student engagement in their own learning. Students will be more motivated if they are confident that their opinions matter and they own their experience rather than simply meeting the expectations of others. Too much autonomy can be overwhelming and distressing; too little can be stultifying and dispiriting. We need to find the “Goldilocks” zone in student voice.
To learn more about this, see: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/08/giving-students-voice Take a moment to read the full article and observe the references.
As you would be aware, I regularly have lunches with students in small groups and ask them lots of questions. I speak with students as I move around the campus, usually when they are in groups but occasionally enjoy a quick conversation with a student as they pass by on their way to an event. I speak with them on the way to Assembly or on the sidelines while we are supporting Barker Teams. I find them very willing to speak and even to open up about their views. They love to be asked, even if they don’t want to be pressed too hard on their views.
The kinds of topics vary according to the time of year and the rhythms of the School. To some extent, the issues don’t matter as much as my being open to listen. I know many Barker staff follow the same approach in their classrooms or with their teams. In the Junior School, class teachers discuss their “essential agreements” with their students, establishing the class routines for the year. It is in the Barker culture to do so.
Our Senior School student leadership team has the vision of “Connecting the College”. They encourage the development of relationships that link the busy activities of Barker to student engagement and belonging. It’s wonderful to see.
The more frequently we hear student voice, the more likely we are to observe patterns in the culture. Are there students who are sad or lonely? How well does the School support new students, or ensure that we protect diversity? What is the student-view of the learning experience? What patterns are emerging in the rapidly changing world in which our students walk? We need to be aware so we can support all our learners.
Climate Change Rally
By the time you read this blog, the Climate Change Rally (sometimes unhappily referred to as the Student Strike) will have occurred. During the last few days, several students and several classes have asked if they can march at the climate change event on Friday. I supported students in the Footprint group and Global Studies class to join the march, with the assistance of their teachers.
Approximately 40 Barker College students attended the Climate Change Rally in Sydney on Friday March 15. As a School we are supportive of providing for student voice and support their passion about policies and decision making. It is not a political matter, although it does enter the debate about public policy. The students approached me respectfully and in a considered way. A school is an intellectual institution, awash with ideas and passionate dreams for the future. We have encouraged all of our students to foster vision and not blame, to become the changes they seek to see in the world.
They are already leading substantial programs to promote renewables and to reduce single-use plastics on the Barker campus. It is student led change – global issues considered from a local perspective. How can I refuse to support them? I utterly reject, however, the bitterness of a march that simply blames and seeks no solutions. Action on global issues begins with local reforms.
Students studying Global Studies, along with students from our Footprint group, which is a volunteer group that aims to blend advocacy, education and participation across a range of environmental and social issues, attended the Rally along with two members of Barker’s staff. In a small number of cases, students marched with their parents.
Listening often involves more than simply hearing, occasionally stepping out on a limb for them to know that you have heard their voice.