One of the initial differences I noticed at this conference was the "student voice". I attended an excellent session by Sylvia Martinez of GenYes on the subject. We spent a good amount of time talking about how student voice is tokenized in many of our schools and what truly allowing students to have voice means in terms of integrating them into the decision making processes in schools.
The Science Leadership Academy served as an excellent place to have this discussion. Students in this school sit on the hiring committees that interview new teachers. This is an amazing amount of "voice" to give students. One of the teachers (I apologize for not remembering your name) at SLA expressed his concern and asked the group if it was appropriate to allow a 15 year old high school student to make decisions that will effect a teacher's career and life. I found him afterward to continue the discussion.
More and more, adulthood has been delayed. Responsibility, maturity, discretion, and professionalism have been put off until "kids" are in their mid-twenties. My argument was that we need to give kids the opportunities to learn these adult skills. I think the teacher began to agree. We cannot expect kids to use their "voice" maturely if we do not teach them how in REAL situations. This is an incredible way to do that. Much more powerful than letting them decide if they can have french fries during lunch, don't you think?
"We're All Student Teachers" was another presentation that illustrated the power of student voice. It was conducted by Arthus Erea, an amazing young man of 15, an edublogger instrumental in the creation of Students2.0, and a learner. He led a discussion around the following 5 questions:
- How can a wrinkled model of education be created
- How can students be authentic leaders?
- How can students direct their own learning?
- How can students become teachers?
- How will our perceptions of students and teachers change?
This realization came from a discussion led by a 15 year old "student". Arthus, you are truly a learner and a teacher. I would also like to thank the SLA students and Meg Peters (daughter of Sharon Peters) for sharing your voices with the rest of us during the session. If Megan has a blog someone please let me know! This was truly an example of a group of learners in a room, not students and teachers.
As powerful as student voice was here, I am sad to say that the incredible panel of Sylvia Martinez, Joyce Valenza, Dr. Gary Stager, David Jakes, Chris Lehmann, and Will Richardson. Although I agree there is a place for experts and research, this particular discussion could have used that voice.
Students at this conference were not showpieces. They were not tokens. They had voices. People were listening to them. They were participants in the conversation. It is amazing to me that this is unusual in education. Thanks for reminding me that school is where we learn together, not where we just teach kids stuff.
More to come on Educon soon........