When Students Drive Improvement
Eric Hardie, author of When Students Drive Improvement, details the most useful wealth of knowledge when it comes to changes that should be implemented in the school: the students themselves. Hardie suggests that teachers can only assume what issues students are facing and what feelings they have about school. Therefore, when teachers and administrators attempt to implement programs that rectify these issues, they may not be fully effect or at all relevant to the feelings the students actually have.
By truly listening to students and creating opportunities for the students to take control of their own school, the information provided and implemented within the school is invaluable. One school created a student council consisting of students from a wide variety of areas within the school (academics, athletics, arts, etc.), which created a system to solve the problem of individuals feeling bullied and as thought they don’t belong. Additionally, the students sought to solve other problems within the school by acknowledging the problem, brainstorming ways to solve it, and putting a plan into action, all of which was student-driven.
I feel very strongly about the viewed expressed in Hardie’s article. It is one thing for students to learn a standardized curriculum, but if students are simply meant to absorb information and go on with their life, then there is a problem with the system. Students of all ages have very real opinions, especially when it comes to issues regarding their time at school, as do they have very real solutions that could be implemented. By putting the problem and the solution into the hands of the students, they are provided with an opportunity to learn social justice, equality and equity, empathy, time management, and initiative, among other skills that are not explicitly taught in the curriculum.
At my elementary school, St. Matthew in Waterloo, we had a “house” system in place. Our mascot was the wildcat, so we had four “cat team” which every student in the school was sorted under. Throughout the year, students would be able to earn points for their teams by being recognized by teachers for being good students, winning intramural sports, submitting great assignments, etc. This created a sense of belonging, team unity, and a desire to do well, not only for one’s self, but for the entirety of the team.