Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Leading with the Student Voice

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Leading with the Student Voice

Article excerpt

Recently, in response to a group of middle school students who asked about my journey to becoming a school leader, I recalled my 23-year journey to being awarded my Ph.D., in 2004 and my mother's sage advice.

I remember telling my mother that I just wanted to be done and did not want to participate in graduation ceremony. Her response was, "That would be fine if graduation was for you." She went on to explain that graduation was for all those people who had supported me to that point, and for all those who came before me and made it possible for a young African American woman to obtain the highest academic degree. My participation was a way to honor them.

My mother beamed with pride as I was hooded at the Purdue graduation, where she knew my participation in that ceremony was inspiring others.

At the reception after the graduation ceremony, a young African American woman who had just received her undergraduate degree approached me in her graduation robe and said, "Seeing you get hooded today for your doctoral degree helps me see that it is possible for me, too."

Since that day, I have been aware of the impact educators and leaders have on students and the community. Our actions can inspire or discourage. That is up to us.

The time is now for us to serve as inspiration through our own continuous learning and by our actions as leaders in our middle schools.

Seeking the Student Voice

As a part of my educational journey, I learned about educational philosophy and theories. I practiced strategies, deployed initiatives, and taught curriculum. I followed mandates and met achievement goals for students. I adhered to assessments and testing requirements. I wrote and deployed school improvement plans and district strategic plans. I served on textbook adoption committees and department of education task forces. I have written individualized education plans and have participated in professional learning communities. I have seen technology become a tool for learning and a necessity for life.

A few years ago, however, I was forced to look at my leadership differently. I had mastered curriculum review, deployment of initiatives, and leadership oversight, and I knew how to "do school," but I had not heard the student voice about the teaching and learning process in a long time. I don't mean incorporating the student voice in the classroom during instruction-I mean truly trying to see teaching and learning through their eyes. I wondered what their student voice would say.

I realized that students did not serve on committees for curriculum planning and textbooks. They did not attend professional learning community meetings to share their voice. They did not serve on our initiative deployment committees. They were not in professional development with teachers to share their perspective.

The Time Is Now

It was at that moment that I decided the time was now that I hear the voice of students about the educational process. It is easy for educators to plan, deploy, implement, and assess without ever taking the time to hear students' voices about the teaching and learning process. The time is now to listen to what they have to say.

I remember standing before my high school senior class as a candidate for class president and demanding our student voices be heard by teachers and administrators. …

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