Welcoming students back into the classroom post- pandemic is a challenge. Many students have been out of the physical school setting for over a year. Many educators are looking for ways to ensure a safe learning environment that reflects inclusion, meaningful engagement, and effective learning. Each of these objectives are important to build a positive school community. More importantly, help strengthen student voices within the learning environment.
To help educators welcome students back to school, this article highlights the importance of incorporating student voice throughout the school community. In order to create a welcoming and productive learning environment, the student voice must be interwoven into the school experience. Student voice is not only useful during peer engagement and expressive learning, but it also stimulates problem-solving skills, promotes inclusivity, and fosters civic engagement.
The student voice approach is highly recommended by our featured presenter of the month, Dr. Jamiylah Jones, E.d. D., Principal of Wellspring School of Hollis Queens, New York. Dr. Jones believes in building strong school communities through student voice. During her webinar series entitled “Welcoming Students Back In Ways That Feel Engaged and Empowered”, Dr. Jones creatively illustrated how educators can “amplify” the student voice in academic, social, and community engagement frameworks. Her creative demonstrations provided teachers and school leaders with helpful tools necessary for welcoming students back to school.
Creating a space in the classroom for student research and discussion is a very effective practice to incorporate the student voice into the academic setting. Dr. Jones emphasized that in her experience, such a practice helps students become confident in engaging with curriculum themes, public speaking, and developing an appreciation for learning. She also described student voice as a tool for schools to curate social justice and advocacy. For example, students can use their social experiences and cognitive inquiry to engage in cultural awareness. When a student is given the opportunity to articulate their thoughts and feelings, diversity and inclusion is manifested in the learning environment.
Overall, many schools are looking for creative ways to engage students and to enhance their learning this school year. When a school takes the time to incorporate student voice into their academic and social learning objectives, it sets a welcoming tone for the student and their family. Which in return, positively enhances the student’s connection to the school community and curates learning appreciation. In addition, paying close attention to the student voice also aligns with the current educational focus of supporting student social and emotional needs of today.
Dr. Shana Eutsay, Ed.D.