Much of the conversation around the school system focuses on what adults believe students need—from high-stakes testing to required coursework to extracurriculars—without any consideration of how students are affected by these policy issues. It’s no surprise, then, why many students are disengaged and disconnected.
Consider the unthinkable — have we reached the point in the history of our education system where students could design their own curriculum? Could students lead professional development for teachers? Would teachers be willing to assume new roles and share power with their students?
There are millions of students in our own country, in our own communities, who are not receiving the basics of what a 21st century education should provide. It’s a wonder that they aren’t organizing, boycotting, and marching in the streets. Perhaps they don’t know the power they have.
This year, one of the Dallas County ’17 practicum teams set out to show them.
The team partnered with United to Learn partnership schools in North Dallas, bringing together a cohort of half public school, half private school high school students to build relationships and learn about issues of educational equity. After a semester of empathy, relationship building, and planning, the team piloted three sessions with the students:
Session 1 – Who Could We Be Together?
Session 2 – What Do We See Together?
Session 3 – What Can We Do Together?
Even in just these three sessions it was such an inspiration to see the bonds that were formed between students and to hear their dreams and innovative ideas for addressing serious issues in their community.
All of the participants from this year’s pilot are eager to continue into a full-year of programming next year, and so are we! With the support of United to Learn, we will expand the Student Voices Fellowship next year to three cohorts of 25-30 students each, with six sessions, an all-cohort conference, and an end of year impact summit. We can’t wait to see the influence these students will have on educational equity in our community!
For greater insight, read this awesome student-authored article on the program: http://hockadayfourcast.org/DALLAS-STUDENTS-UNITE/