More STUDENT VOICE at EdCamps

by mrsapia

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Yesterday was my third Ed Camp experience. It never ceases to amaze me when you walk into the “Living Room” of the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, CT and see a complete immersion of educators looking to enhance their craft and being  learners first. Every attending educator is clearly intrinsically motivated to learn because they are attending on their own accord.

For those of you unfamiliar with the EdCamp model, please click this link.

Great discussions happen in sessions. There is no arguing that. But the true magic, at least for me, comes in the form of side conversations while you’re walking down the hallway, outside on the grass talking about how to implement a new school wide idea and provide follow through, or piggy backing off someones idea in a session.

This is what happened for me yesterday. I decided to attend a session about making the curriculum engaging and meaningful. Unfortunately, the “facilitator” of that session accidentally double booked. In the true spirit of improvisation, a discussion formed and took on a life of its own. There was a young 17 year old girl in attendance. She was a product of public school, but decided that this setting was not meeting her individual needs as a learner. She is now home schooled, with plans on attending a speciality school in New Haven, CT.  The name of the school has currently escaped me.

I asked if here past teachers ever took the time to get to know her learning style.  She replied, “No!” I went deeper and asked her what she looks for out a teacher.  Her response was quite simple.  She wanted teachers to get to know HER, take the time to talk and ask questions, and listen to her voice to create an autonomous learning environment where she can demonstrate learning of the objective how she sees fit. She felt her creative spirit was not engaged because of her “drill and kill” experiences in public school.  While I acknowledge the fact we have many uninspiring directives students must complete, we must harness the power of student voice in many other situations.   This is what education should be about.  Creating a classroom environment where student voice is valued and heard.  We can make learning messy by utilizing a project based learning model that holds students to very high expectations, while ensuring the standards are meet.  Think about it.  If we systematically put this model in place, we can hit many more standards than a traditional environment.  Her voice reaffirmed my beliefs of what’s possible in a classroom.

It was also a light bulb moment because  I realized Ed camps are missing an important component. This is an area where they can be improved.  Let’s get young scholars involved in the process.  By inviting them to these events, virtually or physically, we can hear their voices and use their feedback to bring back to our classrooms.  After all, they are our most important stakeholders.  How can they not be involved?  It’s a refreshing reminder that we as educators must take the time to not only listen to students, but use their feedback to make constant improvements to make learning meaningful and memorable.  My challenge is this.  Next time you plan an Ed camp, invite students to facilitate and/or participate in a session.  I promise, you will leave with inspiration and new-found knowledge.

Finally, I’d highly recommend reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Passionate Learners: Giving the Classroom Back to our Students, by Pernille Ripp.  Both of these books provide a very strong foundation for creating an exciting learning environment for our students, while ensuring their voices are heard!

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