Changing the “no one at school listens to us” Culture: Building & Sustaining Student Leadership Groups in Middle School

Katherine Cohen Volin, Marc Brasof
Friday, 2:15 pm to 3:45 pm -- Sellinger 003

Middle school students often (rightly so) believe they have no voice in their schooling. Educators' negative images of youths' cognitive abilities and maturity levels place students on the fringe of decision making process. However, there are numerous benefits to changing the top down structure of most middle schools and including youth into leadership. Yet building and sustaining a more democratic school structure can be extremely challenging when old practices are entrenched.
This workshop will unpack the experiences of two Philadelphia educators in their work bringing student voice into public schools on small and large scales. Outcomes suggest that scaling up reform within a school is more challenging than developing whole-school principal led initiatives. However, democratic, youth-adult governance structures can and should be put in place in educational settings. The facilitators will work with participants to develop strategies they can use to make their schools or organizations student voice focused and more democratically structured.