Student Voice

So at the very end of last year, a handful of us sat down and took a hard look at our overall Middle School program, as well as the individual initiatives that have made us who we are. We wanted to identify areas that still needed our attention…..areas that needed some extra focus, some re-working, and a little bit more unpacking on our part in order for us to really achieve our goals as a division. We came up with two areas that seemed to be screaming out for a little extra TLC, and I’d like to briefly talk about one of those areas today…..STUDENT VOICE. Developing a strong, supported, and empowered student voice has been a work in progress for us honestly. Sure, we had our student council, our bi-annual student surveys, our student/teacher feedback requirements, and our student leadership teams but it always felt like we were missing something…..it felt like we were forcing the program on the student body from our adult perspectives, and it never felt like it was truly accomplishing what it was set up to do……so we decided to do something about it.

We decided to re-write the student leadership mission and vision, and to enter into this year with a brand new approach. An approach that has allowed our students to be involved at the ground level, an approach that has allowed us to utilize the various skill sets of our incredible student leaders, and an approach that has begun to change our Middle School’s student voice from a whisper to a scream. We started back in August with an advertising campaign of sorts, rallying the students around the different leadership possibilities that were now on offer. We talked and talked to kids, we gathered up some amazing suggestions and feedback, we looked around at other successful programs, and then we whipped them all up into a frenzy at the welcome back assembly. With the commitment and vision of five of our ridiculously talented and passionate educators (thank you Kim and Andrea and Dani and Robbie and Mike), we now have 65 Middle School kids, or one out of every 5 students in our division, who are eager to make a change, and focused on making our Middle School the best it can possibly be.

We finally have students placed in areas that align with their individual passions, and in areas that allow them to find some purpose as young adults. Kids are now making a difference in our community in the following areas, and we’re gaining some serious momentum……

  • service learning
  • relationship building
  • fundraising
  • creative design
  • peer tutoring and peer mentoring
  • event planning
  • public speaking
  • house system
  • communications
  • student run television


We’ve turned our student leadership council from essentially a “Middle School dance planning committee” to a council that it on the verge of something truly special. The best part about this transformation is how engaged our kids are in taking back their school. I have kids in my office now every day asking me what I think about this idea and that idea, and it’s spreading like wildfire. If we’re not careful then next year we’ll have the entire student body applying for positions! I guess the point is (and we should have recognized this from the start three years ago) that if you want something done right….turn it over to the students 🙂

We’ve had a great start to the school year and it’s shaping up to be the best one to date…..and that’s just what our students are saying. I feel as though we’ve found and addressed a missing piece of the puzzle, and now we’re firing on all cylinders and running more smoothly than ever. I’ll be sure to talk about that other area that needed our attention in another post, but until then, have a wonderful week everyone and remember to let our students be heard and to be good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
Our lives, hopes, and dreams depend on our ability to be heard.
—James Bernard

TED Talk – Ntaiya KaKenya ( Inspirational…a true student voice)
http://www.ted.com/talks/kakenya_ntaiya_a_girl_who_demanded_school.html
Student Voice website – Worldwide student Activism
http://stuvoice.org/
Student Voice Website and Blog Posts– Hot Topics in Learning
http://www.pil-network.com/HotTopics/studentvoice
Article #1 (attached) – The Power of Student Voice The Power of Student Voice
Article #2 (attached) – Amplifying Student Voice Amplifying Student Voice



About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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