This past weekend was spent the same way I’ve spent the fourth weekend of January for the past twelve years: in Philadelphia attending EduCon.
EduCon is a relatively small conference that someone described as a popup community. It’s a community of smart, interesting, passionate educators who come from near and far to immerse themselves in discussions around many difficult topics about learning and society.
Reflecting back on some of the sessions I was part of, I think I may have been a little repetitive. Possibly even obnoxious.
I found myself asking the same question over and over: where are the kids in this process?
You’re designing a new school? Why don’t you have students on the primary planning team? Based on possibly many years of experience, they likely have some strong opinions and wonderful insight. After all, they will be expected to do some serious work in these spaces.
You’re revising the curriculum? Wouldn’t it be better if you included students who had taken the course in the past? Certainly there is a core of information, some of it required. But kids could tell you exactly what worked and what didn’t how that information is presented.
You’re writing a mission and vision statement for your school? I’m pretty sure it’s going to say something about kids and their future. They should be on the core committee right along side of the administrators, teachers, and those other “stakeholders”.
I’m pretty sure the people I used to work with were tired of hearing me regularly bring up the topic. The idea that students should be part of the teams that are responsible for planning the educational process that will have a major impact on their lives.
In our overly-large school district, students might be brought in as part of focus groups later in the process, but their input likely didn’t have much influence. When a project reached the focus group stage, the major decisions had been made and this was just about tweaking things around the edges.
Anyway, I never intended the question to be a criticism of anyone in the room at EduCon. And I think many members of this community are very aware that most schools and districts do a rather poor job of including students in their planning processes.
I hope at least some of them will take the idea back to their workplaces and begin asking their colleagues, “where are the kids?” more often.
The image is one I keep coming back to almost every year: looking down at the SLA cafeteria from the second floor. I’ll have to look for another view next year since the school and EduCon will be moving to a new building in the fall.