Hearing Student Voices & Understanding Their Power (by Guest Blogger & Capstone Alumna Amanda House)

No More CutsRecently as I was browsing through my news feed page on Facebook I noticed a link to a video that caught my attention (be aware that the video does have a few choice words).

One of my first thoughts while watching this video was “wow! why are high school aged students working on packets while the teacher lounges back at her desk?” I would not make the assumption that the teacher was just lounging at her desk except for the fact that you can see her doing exactly that. Even if students are working on packets should the teacher not be up moving around the room making sure students are not falling behind in their work? He brought up the fact that she said they were a pay check for her and you can hear her telling him he is wasting her time. I thought teaching the students earned the pay check? We, and I, do have to keep in mind that this is a short video and does not show what her class is always like, nor the quality of her teaching overall.
Is There Space for Students to Fight for Their Rights?
My second thought was, wow the student is stating a really valid point but he is being kicked out of the classroom and will face reprimand I’m sure. This caused me to think about what options students do have in fighting for their rights in education. I don’t think that what he did was okay, he was lashing out at a teacher and disrupting the entire class; however, I do think the things he said needed to be said. Though his opinions were justified, such as all students learning differently, he needed a healthier way of venting his frustrating with our education system. A way where others, parents, students, educators, and those making the decisions can hear him as a student standing up for his rights and not as a “trouble maker”. Did you think of him as causing trouble when you watched the video? It seems like many people would think of him this way and that would cause them to miss the whole point of what he was saying.
  • What options are out there for students who want to fight for a reform in our education system? 
  • How can they get their voice heard without being punished? 
  • Is this a potential rout for the fight for better education to go in, using the voice of students who are there in the thick of things and as this student said “the future of or nation” to stand up and be heard? 
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4 thoughts on “Hearing Student Voices & Understanding Their Power (by Guest Blogger & Capstone Alumna Amanda House)

  1. I saw this same video and was astonished by it. It’s to bad everyone seems to lack empathy of the issues the student spoke about. While I know it is not her fault per say,I would go as far as to say this shows how the system has deteriorated to such a state the both students and teachers are complacent just to reach the bare minimum standard.

    I wonder this a lot being as I am a student. As much as I want to fight for my rights I question how can we do it most effectively. It must feel horrible to be someone that teaches and see a student present something like this. I wonder if we were to approach education as some other nations do how would me restructure and fund it.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Amanda,
      This video left me without words. It has never been anywhere in my thought process that a teacher would act like that or that some of the students would just sit there and be okay with that kind of behavior. To say that the students were just a pay check to her is probably that lowest thing a teacher can do in my opinion, and it is horrible that such behavior occurs.
      I do firmly believe that students have the space and the right to stand up for themselves and their personal rights. As we have been talking about in class I believe everyone deserves an equal education and that definitely does not include teachers who say such things. Thank you for a wonderful post.

      –Joshua Lisoski

  2. I saw the video you’re talking about. I watched it multiple times because I found it so fascinating. Follow-up news stories said that the principal and the student had a meeting to discuss the student’s feelings, and the student was not punished.
    I think this story shows that technology can really help students get their voices heard. Real live footage of someone “fighting the man”, or heart felt videos can go a long way in the modern age. Other than this, it seems like students are pretty limited in what they can say and how they say it. Most of the time their parents have to be their mouthpiece, but this doesn’t always work because parents are not always aware of issues that arise. When a student decides to stand up for him or herself things can go well if they have a legitimate message and are able to get a national platform, like youtube or the news. As long as adults and other students are willing to back them, they can avoid punishment. I think today a lot of people like police departments, businesses, and celebrities are terrified of bad PR, and schools are no different. The defense public opinion can provide for the wronged is impressive. If students were allowed and encouraged more often to share their thoughts about their education as long as they did so somewhat respectfully, I think more of them would.
    The video made me wonder what were the other students were thinking when this was taking place. What was the student who was recording the video thinking? Were they in agreement with the upset student, or did they disagree with him. Were they indifferent, had they noticed all the packet work they were doing, or were they just interested in the potentially for serious drama that was unfolding before them.

  3. Saw that same video last week. I thought he had a valid point and was brave in him stance. I feel like he should have stayed a bit longer to express his point but I understood his fire and passion as well. He seemed too fired up to articulate very well. I have often felt like doing this same thing. I, too, have felt that my teachers and at times even professors are doing things for the paycheck and have forgotten about the passion involved.

    What options are out there for students who want to fight for a reform in our education system?

    There are plenty. Students can throw a strike if they want and refuse to go to school if things don’t change. I believe the reason that this hardly ever (if at all) happens is that the students are put into the absolute most inferior position and taught that they have very few options. Students are children too so their parents (while protecting their child’s rights) also side with the teachers who are of a closer age group and experience level (so many parents are under the impression). I understand I have no sources for this but I’m speaking from strong personal observation being a student who has lived in the city and a small town. I think I have valid, though probably disorganized arguments. Still valid, nonetheless.

    Students can organize whatever they want. They lack the motivation to do so though, I believe, because of their position in society. I think adults should reach out to students and tell them that they have the option to fix things if they want; teachers included. Imagine if a big chunk (or even a small one) marched out and refused to go to school until the curriculum reformed to suit their needs? If they stayed out of school (or even refused to do their work), that school would suffer because the test scores would dramatically fall.

    How can they get their voice heard without being punished?

    This is difficult to answer. I’m going to say that it can’t unless the students can get their parents on their sides. I would say the chances are very slim but I also believe that some things are necessary for change and if that means punishment, so be it.

    Is this a potential rout(e) for the fight for better education to go in, using the voice of students who are there in the thick of things and as this student said “the future of or nation” to stand up and be heard?

    Absolutely as my previous arguments suggest. Without students, teachers have no one to teach.

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