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Student Voices

How can they know?

How can they know,
how hard the burden?
How can they know,
how heavy the load?
Struggle finds a strong heart
and tears, rivers of love
and silence binds us all.

~ Susan Herrick

How can they know? That question has been an ongoing refrain in my head for some time now. Who are they? Students, all ages. What should they know? That is the question of our age, isn’t it?

How can they know? At the Making Connections conference earlier this month, Zoe Weil said the teaching profession has the most influence on our future, yet our current educational goals are not worthy of our students hearts and minds. Students aren’t learning about how our every day choices affect the world. We are not empowering them to investigate the impact of their own choices.

How can they know? At the Global Education Conference this past week, I had the privilege of moderating three youth-led sessions. Ms. Devlin’s 4th grade class shared their passion for service-based learning. Amanda, a high school student, shared her interest in building a global collaborative project with other students to bring global awareness into the classroom. Jordan, a college student, wants to expand upon his student-led World School Initiative. One constant that came shining through in all these sessions is that youth are passionate about and energized for making a difference in the world.

How can they know? My own experience with Project Justice has convinced me that student voices are powerful. As stereotypes were broken down and comprehension began to dawn, I saw first-hand the energy and passion of youth that was both inspiring and frankly a little overwhelming. Is that why we have such a difficult time appreciating the input, perspectives and contributions of our youth?

How can they know? Amanda is frustrated that lessons are stuck in the classroom, knowledge isn’t applied and students are unaware. Jordan kindly observed that even though “youth are uniquely equipped to think creatively and think outside the box… our voices have been a little muffled.”

guardrail by jakubson @

How can they know? What role do we educators play in the acquisition of this knowledge? Jordan shared a great analogy for the role of adults: the student as the driver and the adults involved throughout their life act as guardrails. As educators, we can instruct on how to drive, point out landmarks, provide directions and stand as guardrails, but the student needs to be firmly in the driver’s seat.

They can know because we trust them enough to give them the opportunity. We can seek out the Jordan’s, Amanda’s and Ms. Devlin’s in the world and start sharing with and encouraging each other. I hope you will check out the wealth of resources as you prepare to stand guard: protecting and empowering a student’s voice.

Originally posted @

About techkim

I am a geek, activist, volunteer, writer, mentor, student, teacher who is passionate about technology, education and social justice. Teen Tech Girls founder.


One thought on “How can they know?

  1. We should talk with the kids to gauge their interest in creating new media/coding for justice next semester. I wonder how some of the kids looping from last year would build on their Minecraft homelessness awareness project.

    Thanks for sharing out these sessions and resources, Kim!


    Posted by Chad Sansing | November 27, 2012, 3:12 pm

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