I’ve been setting New Year’s Resolutions for as long as I can remember. I’ve even got my family hooked. Each year during Winter Break, we sit down at the kitchen table to check off the goals we accomplished in the past year and think about what we want to do in the next 12 months. It’s a tradition my family looks forward to and I love it because it helps us all get to know each other better and recognize how far we’ve come.
Some of the goals my kids set are ones I wouldn’t necessarily choose for them. Goals like, “Play more video games.” I cringe slightly inside. It’s not so much because I personally don’t see video games as a productive use of time. It’s more that my years of PLC training and IEP goal writing begin to reverberate inside my head. And I have to keep myself from saying, “But it’s not measurable!” because her goal isn’t for me. It’s a goal my daughter came up with because video games is one way she finds joy. Even though it’s not meaningful to me, her voice should count when she’s setting goals for herself. I also don’t want to take the fun away but putting too much emphasis on benchmarks and lists. So, I don’t let my teacher voice interfere with her joy and her goals.
This year’s resolutions caused me to think about the goals we set for our students. The Architecture of Accomplished Teaching helps us understand the need for high, worthwhile and achievable goals. When we set student goals we look at student assessment data, analyze graphs, and decide how much growth is appropriate for these students to improve in a given time period. We carefully set these goals based on what we know about their needs at this time and in this setting. But, if we’re not intentional, we can exclude students’ voices entirely from the goal setting process.
I’ve been paying closer attention to student voice this year because it’s one of the themes for the upcoming Teacher Leadership Institute hosted by the Arizona K12 Center this summer. As I prepare for my role in the institute this year, I’ve been more attune to the student voices all around me.
Student voice hasn’t always been something I’ve prioritized. I’ve been known to have conversations with other educators that include phrases like, “save the students from themselves” and “students will take the path of least resistance, so accessibility is key.” While I don’t think those statements are wrong per se, it does imply that students don’t have the ability or desire to make positive educational decisions. I’m arriving at a new place in my educational philosophy. One where I’m a partner in my students’ learning and I pay attention to their expressed needs and wants. I’ve begun to accept that I don’t always know best and my expectations for student achievement might be based on my own biases, cultural background, and assumptions that I bring to the table. If students aren’t passionate or interested in our goals for them, maybe it’s time to pay more attention to the things that do inspire them. Student goals should include student voice.
As you set goals with your students this year, what are some ways you’re planning on listening to student voice?
What are some ways you get students invested in your goals for them?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!