In a lot of educators’ minds, “student voice” only happens when adults direct learners to share their thoughts in ways that are acceptable in schools. Whether embedded in the curriculum, listened to through adult-led student forums, or guided in carefully moderated websites, student voice is often painted as the cuddly, friendly, and convenient precursor to “student engagement.”
However, after more than a decade of working with schools across the US and Canada to promote Meaningful Student Involvement throughout the education system, I have discovered that student voice is a multifaceted reality that occurs throughout schools, all the time. Today I define student voice as any expression of any learner about any facet of education. It is shared by the kid who runs out in the hallway after class and scribbles “Mrs Jones Sux!”, as well as the student government president who writes a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. Its the girls texting answers to the test under the desk, as well as the debate team captain speaking in at the mock government event.
This shows us how bullying is clearly an expression of student voice. While inconvenient and disconcerting, approaching bullying from this understanding can allow educators to discern the genuine source of why bullying happens. Repressed actions, ideas, knowledge, and beliefs need an appropriate outlet, and schools are positioned to engage both young people and adults in learning through Meaningful Student Involvement.
Adam Fletcher, President and Lead Facilitator of CommonAction; founder and director of The Freechild Project. Adam is an international advocate for youth and community engagement. His career working with young people and adults as a youth worker, educator, writer, and public speaker started when he was 14 years old. Since then he has created more than 50 youth projects in the United States and Canada, including the award-winning Freechild Project, focused on re-envisioning the roles of young people throughout society; and SoundOut, promoting student voice in schools. Adam has written more than 20 publications, and has worked with approximately 10,000 children, youth, and adults annually since 2001. Today, Adam lives in Olympia, Washington, with his eight year old daughter and their cat named Mailbox. Learn more about Adam at www.adamfletcher.net