As a central services guy, I have to go to extremes to stay in touch with students. I attend a lot of middle and high school sporting events; that helps me focus on our client base. But another strategy I employ is reading Young Adult literature.
I just finished Prep (2003) by Jake Coburn. It deals with the ultimate wannabes, prep school gangs in Manhattan. These entitled children of power brokers engage in the same deadly sins and arts as the most notorious gangs from the most challenged environs.
Coburn grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and attended several different prep schools, where he witnessed New York’s privileged offspring form some of the city’s most vicious street gangs. Prep is based on Jake’s teenage years in Manhattan.
A central theme of Prep is that people are not always whom they appear to be. This leads me to wonder: Do we really know our students for who they are in 2007? Or are we still forcing them into familiar frames and knowing them only as we wish them to be?
We can only truly know people through genuine relationships. Solid two-way communication is a cornerstone of genuine relationships. Are we spending enough time and energy involving students in the conversations that will lead to the decisions that will ultimately impact their educational experiences? Do we need to?
I have this wild idea to create a blog, similar to LeaderTalk, that opens the door to quality student input in a medium with which they are comfortable. Maybe we can recruit 3-5 student voices from each middle and high school. Along with them, perhaps we can gain two innovative and energetic teacher voices from each of those schools.
We could pop some questions out to the group every couple of weeks. The questions would be germane to perceived areas of improvement and especially the 21st Century conversation. We would be remiss to enter into that conversation without student representation.
Marc Prensky does a nice job articulating this position in “To Educate, We Must Listen” (2007). What do you think about more actively and formally including students in conversations about their futures?