Conundrum of Student Voice

The issue with student voice is that in order to properly give students the opportunity to use their voice we as adults actually have to listen and give them a platform to develop their craft and ideas.

The hardest part for adults is to actually be quiet, listen, and allow them to actually run with their ideas.

The hardest part for students is to believe that someone will give them a a chance to use their voice and believe in them.

The power of student voice continues to strengthen each day. Give students a chance to show you their ability to lead and make change. You just might be amazed.

Give students a chance to rise above the crowd and have their voices be heard.

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Student Voice and Participation in Teacher Project Tuning Session

As our building continues to push forward with Project Based Learning (PBL) and striving to challenge our students and ourselves I have reflected on the many key areas we need to work and develop to make the necessary steps to achievement.

As an instructional coach I have noticed that one of the key elements to developing a quality project for learning that is missing is project tuning.

Project Tuning is a systemic approach to helping a teacher tackle a question or mental block that they have in their development of their project. It is an approach that is very powerful and allows the staff to bond and offer insight. It allows the teacher who is tuning to hear perspectives from outside of their department and/or grade level.

Project Tuning is awesome and is something that we have continued to improve upon as we do more and more of these. The issue is that we don’t have enough teachers using this key piece. As we work to provide a structure and schedule for teachers to tune I also started working on another key element to project tuning: STUDENT VOICE

This first semester we had 8th graders work on a Choose2Matter project that we titled #BettPassion. One of the groups, Iowa High Five, is focusing on Student Voice. I brought them in last week to discuss the possibility of branching out student voice to a “behind the scenes” element of project tuning.

Last week we met with them and the principle to discuss this idea. They were excited at the opportunity. We talked about the system and things that need to be worked out.

I typed up two documents for them as well as the teachers to provide them with some structure.

Wednesday we were able to pull four of the girls into my room to do an actual project tuning and give them some practice. We had the opportunity to tune a project for a teacher that has an idea and is able to put his guard down to allow these students to practice.

It was amazing! We had one other teacher show up along with our principle and myself. The students jumped right in and nailed it. They provided some great insight that we don’t always think about as teachers and adults. They were open and honest and really provided a lot of great ideas. I was quite impressed by their maturity and honesty. I know it can be tough to really open up as a student to teachers and admin.

We are going to continue to find ways to include at least two students in each project tuning session from here on out. We will have to work on developing a pool of students to use. It really needs to be thought through because you need students who are honest and willing to speak the truth while also having a maturity level to handle this opportunity.

I am so excited to continue this journey and help enhance the power of student voice in our building. I will continue to provide documents, reflections, and hopefully a few video sessions to show how these project tunings operate.

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Power of #StuVoice, PLN, and Giving Students Access To The World To Make Change #bettpassion @zakmal

I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because I am tired of my careless mistakes due to lack of caffeine in my system when I write at 4 am ūüôā

Over the course of our journey with #BettPassion and working with a group of students known as @IowaHighFive we have been fortunate to come across an amazing college student who is working hard to change the landscape of Student Voice. As our students have traveled to a student lead conference ISLI a few weeks ago we met Zak Malamed via Skype. We contacted him to pick his brain about advice and ideas via Twitter and just last week he took time to Skype with my 8th grade group to give them some advice and things to think about.

What I did not anticipate was my brain exploding with so many things to think about as an adult, educator, and person. I would like to take time to share his words of wisdom with my thoughts weaved in because I think everyone can benefit from what he shared with my students

I have provided all of Zak‘s info from Twitter at the end of this post.

  • Not all students feel like leaders and we need to be cautious of this. This is a powerful statement. As my students work towards developing a student lead conference about leadership they have to be cautious about including everyone while at the same time realizing that not every student feels like they have something to offer. As we have worked through this BettPassion project the one thing that really hit me hard was how many students simply don’t believe they have anything positive to offer the world. This broke my heart and continues to break my heart as I help students find out what they have to offer.
  • Students need to develop and come up with 20 hot issues in education. This needs to come from the student voice. I think it is important that as my students develop a conference for students, they need to seek out their voices first. From there, the group can narrow down the topics. It seems weird to say, but it is easy to not include student voice when you work hard to bring student voice to light.
  • Education and Entrepreneurship – Really what we are talking about is helping students broadcast their voice and the result is this whole notion of entrepreneurialism. They need to learn how to sell and broadcast their ideas and do it in a way that helps others see their way. This is something that I am really stuck on as an educator. Students need to be producers and not just consumers, but an essential piece of being a producer is understanding how to market your ideas to a real world audience and not just a teacher.
  • Networking is about growing and formulating quality relationships. It is not about how many people, but the quality of the people within your network. For younger students it is very important to model and teach that networking is not only what can you do for me, but what benefit is it for them to help you in the first place? As I work with students I am trying to help them see that they just cannot ask, ask, ask, but they must also return something of quality in return. Essentially, this boils down to developing personal connections.
  • Very few understand Twitter. Twitter requires time and work. You must engage with the people and not just tweet things randomly. You have to work hard to stand out. It is not that people don’t care, but the issue today is that there is so much information. How are you going to stand out among everyone else? You have to persuade and prove to your audience that they should care about what you are sharing out. Part of this goes with the idea that you must find your relevant community. You cannot attract everyone. You must think about where your best bang for your buck is going to be and begin to work hard to find those people that provide benefit and quality to your network.
  • Life and the work we do as human beings should be about things we are passionate about. We must be dedicated to the idea and the movement. You must live it. Make it your life. Along the way you have to make your passion sexy. If it is not sexy and cool in appeal nobody is going to invest time and resources to the idea. It goes back to all the things mentioned above. You have to sell it!
After typing all of this up I am getting hyped up to challenge myself as an educator as well as the course my students are traveling. This sounds a lot like what I presented at ITAG a few weeks ago. Find your passion and run with it. Don’t let others stop you. They are just a small roadblock along the way. If you are passionate and believe in the idea enough you won’t let anyone stop you.

I feel blessed that my network has brought in people like Zak. Not only have I benefited and gained from his talks and conversations, but he is impacting my students as well. He brings a dimension to my classroom and teaching that I alone cannot provide. I close with the gratitude of my amazing PLN and for people like Zak to help my students find their voice and continue to push for the ideas they believe. One day soon we will be able to give back and help him and his cause.

I share all of this because as educators we cannot do it alone, nor should we. We have to be willing to bring in other voices and people who can speak from experience and connect with students in ways much different than we can. It is not that they are better, but collectively if we work in groups the education experience becomes better for everyone.



@zakmal

Founder & E.D. of¬†@Stu_Voice. Social Entrepreneur. On Monday’s at 8:30pm EDT I use¬†#StuVoice¬†a lot.¬†@UofMaryland¬†’16. ‚ėģ&‚̧. Zak@StuVoice.org

Washington D.C. & NYC · StuVoice.org

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#BettPassion Project Genius Wall and Updates #youmatter #choose2matter

It is time to update our status on our BettPassion project.

Part of our process in this project is to help students identify who they are and what their contributions are to the world.

What was amazing to me and other teachers were how many students really don’t believe they have anything to offer. It really broke my heart as an educator. The students who sauntered the hallways acting the most confident were the ones lacking the most confidence in themselves.

We are not just working on helping the world and offering our contributions, but we now had another element to address by helping students find themselves. If you don’t believe in yourself, then how can you help others?

Below is a slideshow showcasing how we had our students declare their Genius using light bulbs. Please check it out! I would love to see what others are doing to help students declare their genius.

One of the major mental blocks students faced was the context of the term “Genius”. They connected this term with the “gifted” or “smart” kids. What we had to do was show them that we are talking beyond that. What is it that you possess that allows problems to be solved. When we have an issue on a certain topic, can we go to you?

The next big goal is to use these Genius walls as a resource. If I am stuck on video editing, who can I go to for help? I need to brainstorm, who can help me? This wall will be a living breathing resource that we can all go to. It allows students to help others as well as see their genius spread.

We are currently in a phase where we are allowing students to find out what they need on their own. Part of this project is to help students find their independence and passion. They must begin to own it! This is not about requirements for a grade. This is about helping students find out how important their voice and ideas are to this world.

Next week we will be asking teams to submit their group folders showcasing examples of their work and connections. I will share those soon. From there each group will present on their current status. A few will want to go further and so we are in the process of developing a Shark Tank from local business owners to gain community buy in and to help students learn how to sell their ideas. We are very excited for this and have some amazing things in development.

To see more about our project check out ¬†my prior blog posts –¬†http://coffeeforthebrain.blogspot.com/search?q=bettpassion

I have so much more to share and will do that soon. For now, let me know what you think, what questions you have, and what I can do to help  please let me know.

We are also seeking some funding for the student ideas so if you like what you see and would like to help out we would be forever grateful. We are slowly getting to the phase where funding will be needed to make some of the projects develop. 

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#BettPassion Week Recap – BOOM! Students are on a roll!

This week we decided to take a week from their social studies class and devote each class to this project. We knew that we needed to place a big emphasis on moving our ideas forward into action mode. Students also had some blogging activities to do in language arts class.

Here is what we planned for the week.

We wrote up some key things that needed to be done by the end of the week.

Students really needed to clean up their action plans. We had them fill out a written action plan and that had to be submitted. While they were working on this we decided to give every group a folder. This folder would be available throughout the day. Many groups have students from several class periods so we were trying to help with the asynchronous communication. Sometimes paper copies work best along with the online sharing via Google Drive.

As you can see the board continued to be a work in progress. I think this is vital. The students are able to see the teachers in the room collaborate, brainstorm, and modify in class on the fly. We are leading by example on how to work together, ask questions, and solve problems. We were constantly adding, editing, modifying, and making new resources available on Google Drive, our Dropbox, and Evernote. I really believe this is vital. Many students have no idea how to work together. They are unsure of themselves and their ideas. They were able to witness their teachers go through the same feelings and struggles in real time. This is something that is lacking in education. Model group collaboration via educators to students.

 I did not take a picture before leaving Thursday, but this board was twice as full by the end of the week. We had ideas from all sorts of teachers. It was a piece of art in my mind.

As students worked they had to share and submit their work to the teachers and print a copy for their folder. Many groups changed their names to be more enticing, some groups shifted in people, and it really became constant thinking process. Students started to really buy into the ideas and realize that they could do these things. The action was starting to unfold.

Friday, I was not able to be at school, but it was the most vital day. We were able to give them a two hour block of time to work with their team and just hammer things out.

I was at home networking with the teachers and students via Twitter, Dropbox, Google Drive, Gmail, YouTube, etc. I was a multitasking machine. I was able to feel the vibes of Student Voice and Power.

When you read tweets like this

Making a presentation and speech. Its part of our action plan. Today has just been flying by. Had an amazing day. #bettpassion
‚ÄĒ RAFANA (@BMSRAFANA) October 4, 2013

Our second contact replied. I am so glad. #bettpassion
‚ÄĒ RAFANA (@BMSRAFANA) October 4, 2013

And messages from teachers like ” I wish you could have been here to see how amazing the kids were. The groups I had were working so hard that at lunch they didn’t want to stop….so we didn’t.”

#Bettpassion is a lot of work. It takes a massive amount of time to help 50 student projects make it. We have a long way to go, but my heart tells me we are doing something special and this is a project that the students will not forget. We still have a long journey ahead of us, but the end is going to be one heck of a WOW moment.

Next week we will get them up and running on their own websites. By weeks end these students will have a website, a blog, possibly Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and connections to the world to make their action plans a reality.

They would love your ideas and feedback. If you have not been to our website – http://bettpassion.wikispaces.com/ please take time to check it out and look at their action plans. They are just begging for people to respond to them. They want feedback and want to know people are watching. We(educators) would love others to help with giving them advice and expertise knowledge.

You can always email me your feedback at aarmau@gmail.com and I will relay it on. This might be the best way until their websites are up and running with their contact info.

I love being in education and watching students begin to believe in themselves. As always it comes down to the students and teachers.

As I shared with the amazing teachers at BMS who are working on this project who are just flat out amazing teachers!

Thank you to everyone who are busting their butts to make this happen. I apologize for not being there today. Here is our project page to our BettPassion website – http://bettpassion.wikispaces.com/BettPassion+Project+Links

Looking through these action plans makes me so proud of what we are trying to do. You can just feel the power of student voice. I know it is crazy and hectic, but reading the tweets from groups today and the emails you can just feel their confidence take off. Many were tweeting that the time was flying by and they were getting a lot done. I hope it was not too bad for the teachers.

Have a great weekend and I thank you all again for taking time to help the project move forward. This is why our school kicks butt because of teachers like you all.

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#BettPassion Student Action Plans Going Live Today and Tomorrow

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Today we will begin to share our action plans that students are ready to share. They are looking for feedback, expert advice, tips, connections, etc.

I will be adding them to our website throughout the next 48 hours as I receive them and have time to upload. We will have a total of 48 projects when it is all said and done.

A bit hectic today, but very exciting. Our groups are mixed throughout eight class periods so we are helping them work through asynchronous communication.

Please take some time over the next few days to check out their ideas. We would love your feedback. Please ask questions, offer support, provide resources, materials, etc. I don’t care what you share, but the more kids see people reaching the more empowered they will become. If nobody connects, then they know they did not sell their ideas well enough and need to adjust their plan.

This is what life and learning is all about.

Here is the link to our site and project action plans

http://bettpassion.wikispaces.com/BettPassion+Project+Links

Lastly, follow us on Twitter with the #bettpassion hashtag.

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#BettPassion Workshop with Angela Maiers and declaring Action Plans tomorrow

It has been a little while since I have blogged about our #BettPassion project.

Students are putting the finishing touches to their action plans and tomorrow they will be declaring their action plans to what breaks their heart online. We are going to network our ideas and hopefully people will reach out to help them achieve their goals.

We are currently keeping our fingers crossed that one particular grant is funded next week. We need the money to provide payment for our film crew to document our journey and to also give us money to begin to fund some of the student ideas.

Here is a clip from our workshop day with Angela that kickstarted this project developed by our film crew we hired. This is a small dose of what they can do to showcase the power of our students.

“Choose 2 Matter’ – BMS from Todd Graham Boerema on Vimeo.

One of the several issues that we are working through on a project of this scale is to have the funds to help students make their dreams a reality. We don’t want to ask people for money, we want to provide a service, but at the end of the day we have to have money to bring the ideas to life. This has been our major issue as we continue to dig deep. We have 41 projects so money is needed and there is no simple way to help each group.

Tomorrow be ready! We will be declaring our project and action plans to solve and improve issues we hold dear to our hearts. Be ready to chime in and offer support, expertise, and anything else you can provide. We are excited to help students have their voices and ideas heard. The more they connect with, the better things will be.

See you tomorrow!

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Response to feedback on #bettpassion #coffeechugPLN

I had shared this blog post a few weeks back. During that time I received some wonderful feedback that challenged my thinking. Below is one particular comment that I wanted to respond to and share here on the blog.

1 Step Back to Go 3 Steps Forward. Time to act! #bettpassion http://buff.ly/19U7QPq #coffeechugPLN
Hi Aaron, LOVE the construct to encourage innovative thinking¬†among¬†students. Empowering kids to use what is already part of their academic skill set is brilliant. Do you feel it may be difficult for them to achieve hero-status (Mandela, Jobs etc.) by being motivated to take on self direction without having been prepared to do so up to this moment? Do they have the skill set to execute their grand ideas and if not, could an advisory board of consultants in various fields help? Professional parents at the school?… I completely agree that kids need to get to exactly the place you’re talking about and you’re bang on in the practical approach – connecting their learning to practical applications is exactly where education needs to go. Not directing them on what to do is a huge lead of faith but making sure they have the proper resources to execute is crucial to their confidence. I hope your bravery as a teacher is enlightening to all of us. You’re on to something! Exciting and looking forward to the results!
By nicole middleton

 Do you feel it may be difficult for them to achieve hero-status (Mandela, Jobs etc.) by being motivated to take on self direction without having been prepared to do so up to this moment?

This is a great question and one we are trying to figure out as we go through this process. What we are finding is that many students do not have the confidence in themselves to identify one quality trait they possess when we ask them what their contribution is. This has opened my eyes to a much larger issue in education where we are exposing students to the real world, forcing them to work in groups more and more, and to constantly think about others, when we have missed the most vital step which is to teach students to understand themselves. 

We are now working through many layers of “self”. Some students we are really developing a platform where they are trying to find their good after many years of being told that they don’t have much to offer. How can we expect them to reach this high level of success when they don’t believe in themselves? I will have to keep everyone informed on what we are doing to help alleviate this issue. This project is unveiling bigger issues in education beyond the scope of this project.


Do they have the skill set to execute their grand ideas and if not, could an advisory board of consultants in various fields help?

This too is something that we are working through. I don’t think every student has the skill set to execute their grand ideas. Realistically, I know that many projects will not take off and some will fail. However, even when this happens I know they will still be successful in terms of what we are trying to achieve. If every idea took off, then more people would be doing these types of projects. In the end only a handful will probably work. This becomes a daunting task because we will have to work with students to help them realize that despite a project that did not take off, they were still successful. So much learning is going to happen on this journey. The real world will expose them to realities. The only way to really “fail” is inaction. As long as students work towards their goals, then the learning will happen.

We are already seeing students face issues right now as they develop their action plan. Many cannot identify their values and beliefs connected to the project so now they are adjusting their platform because they have been exposed to idea that they joined their friends and not something they really want to solve.

We do hope to bring in experts and people along the way. Hopefully, as students continue to share their projects and ideas people and businesses will reach out to them. That is what we are expecting. If students sell their ideas the right way, people will want to join their cause.

You can learn more about the project here –¬†http://bettpassion.wikispaces.com/
You can read their blogs here –¬†http://kidblog.org/BettPassion/

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Achievement vs. Success: The School Debacle

Working through our #bettpassion projects and helping students navigate their journey to their destination I cannot help but think a bit about the difference between these two terms.

Achievement is tangible and something concrete in the minds of students. This happens because it can be framed as a goal or a checkmark on a list of things to do.

Can I receive a comment on my blog? Check
Can I have people donate to my cause? Check
Can I create a poster? Website? Flyer? Check

Achievements work for students because they can be measured and in many ways even defined.

I am not about achievement with this project.

I want SUCCESS.

Success is like explaining your WHY? It is a feeling or almost a state of being when you cannot really explain it, but you know you have it. It is something that cannot be generated through a school rubric or scoring system.

Yes, it might take some achievements to reach success, but these are two completely different mindsets and accomplishments.

Going back to my teaching of students of WHY? HOW? WHAT?……..

Achievements fit the section of WHAT
Success fits the section of WHY

The key here is in school how do we teach or maybe I should say guide students to finding their WHY so they can feel success and not just jump through hoops to accomplish achievements?

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Logo vs. Symbol: We want #bettpassion to be a symbol of our WHY!

I challenged our students to develop a logo for our #bettpassion project that we could use to brand what we are trying to achieve. This is a vital element to our social media presence and what we want to accomplish.

Reading Simon Sinek I realized I failed my students. I don’t want a logo. I want a SYMBOL.

A logo is just an image. It really is a thought that remains stuck on the WHAT.

We want a symbol. A symbol reinforces the values of #bettpassion. Many companies have logos that we can identify, but if you ask about their WHY nobody can answer. We don’t want to fall in that category. We want people to see our symbol and know our WHY.

It will be our jobs to explain our WHY and get that message out to the world so the logo becomes a symbol of the essence of what we are attaining to do.

We want to be the flag that sits on the right arm of soldier.

The flag is reversed on purpose. When a soldier is engaged in battle a flag would be waving backwards if viewed from the right. If shown the correct way it would look like the soldier was in retreat. Add to this idea the deep rooted meaning of our flag and what it symbolizes on top of everything else.
We may not have the symbolism of the American flag, but we sure want to be close! However, we have to produce work and change that is worthy of a symbol or else we will just be a logo.

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