Student Voice at Pope

The last couple of months at Pope, (or any school for that matter), are always incredibly busy as there are people trying to get credits, going on field trips, planning proms and graduations and summer holidays. So much to do and that energy is certainly felt in the principal’s office as this was one of those weeks when I was never quite sure if I was at the start, middle or end of a given task because most were fading into each other. I was plenty busy all week and could easily have missed the first period GLE class I was invited to. This Learning Skills class is meant for students with IEPs to help them to improve skills and work habits. This group has never really felt comfortable in school so what an amazing group to talk to about The Third Teacher. Who else could come up with some ideas about how to improve learning.

Like I said though, I could have easily found a reason not to attend the class. I always have a dozen things that have to be done at any particular moment so I would have been totally justified in skipping this one. If I had done that, I probably would have got one of my tasks done but I would have also missed a great class and some really great ideas. I would have missed student voice and that would have been a disaster on this occasion.

The class assignment was to consider what changes in the physical setting of the classroom would improve learning. They had some background on the Third Teacher and were challenged to think about things that could be done to make their learning better in that particular room. There were some good ideas about how to arrange furniture, where to place certain resources so that everyone could have access and what could be done to lighten the mood in the room from new lighting to a brighter pallet of colours on the walls. But then there was a great idea. One young man, who was very nervous and hesitant about his ideas suggested something that I had never thought of before.

He suggested putting a couple of lockers INSIDE the classroom. His rationale was that he had a hard time getting to class on time. His problem was that if he was running even a bit late, his locker was one floor up and nearer the other side of the school. The halls are so busy during movement times that it was impossible for him to get to class on time. If there were a couple of lockers in the classroom that he could “rent” for the morning. Then he could put his bag and coat away and still be to class on time. Now some will say that this is just giving him a crutch and he should learn, (possibly through detentions and talking to the VP), to be on time always. I chose to think of it in a different way. This young man wanted to be on time for class but also acknowledged his shortcomings when it comes to punctuality. He was looking for a solution. He was PROBLEM SOLVING and not allowing the environment to dictate his behaviour. Could he find a change that would serve him? I think he did and as luck would have it, I had two lockers in my bathroom, (I have a shower in my bathroom for some bizarre reason!), that I was not using. Sounds like a solution was just sitting there so I got one of our amazing caretakers to move the lockers to the classroom so that the change could happen right away.

This was a great solution. It literally cost the school nothing and it will have impact on at least one student’s learning. I saw a bigger impact though on the entire class. They also said that the computers in their classroom were too slow so I brought them immediately a new laptop. I had ordered several a few months earlier and was looking for where to put them for students to use productively. I was trying to find a way to allow the tech to change learning and this was perfect. I mentioned a bigger change though earlier. A bigger change that simply have a couple lockers and a new laptop in your classroom. The students saw that their voice had merit in their school. This assignment was not just an academic exercise. They changed their world simply by having good ideas and having the courage to express them. They were nervous as they each presented their ideas: the presence of the principal was surely a bit intimidating for them but they did it anyway. They rose up and their voices lead to very real and luckily, immediate change.

That was a great class and it was great that we were able to instantly respond to their voice. I saw real joy and pride in the faces of the kids in that class, (you will see it too if you watch the video above), and I know that they will never look at that classroom the same again!

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3 Responses to Student Voice at Pope

  1. Lori DiMarco says:

    another great reflection Mike! of course, I’m sure anyone not knowing your school would be wondering not only why you have lockers in your shower, but why it is so unusual to have a shower in a bathroom — because the bathroom is in your office! Great that you were able to show the students that their voices are being listened to and that they can impact change.

  2. Pingback: Student Voice at Pope @PrincipalJPII | TCDSB21C

  3. msrthomas says:

    Thanks again Mike. I think they are still in shock that they made such a big change for themselves and others that use that room. It was a very special day for them.

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