How Dare You Teach Our Students to Speak Up?!

I used to be afraid of what the next year’s teachers thought.  Of how I would be judged.  Of how they would roll their eyes when I spoke of the dreams I had for my students, of the voice I was trying to give them.  Of how they questioned everything I did.  I still remember the day I was told that I was not helping students, but hurting them instead, and how dared I tell students to question the every education we were providing.

And so I stopped.  For a few days any way as I licked my wounds and cried at home.  Because how I had become that teacher that instigated, disrupted, and told students that if their education was not working for them then they had to speak up.  How had I become a teacher who told students to question?

But my students didn’t.  They still questioned me, stopping me and asking what the purpose of something was, asking if they could do it in a different way, if they could change, break, create, or even skip.  And in their fight for a better education I realized that no matter what the next year’s teachers had thought, I had to support that fight.  That my students had the right to create a ruckus when the education being given to them was not working,

So instead of telling them to just speak up and question, I taught them to do it kindly but persistently.  That there were ways they could ask their questions without being seen as dissenters. at all times  That they had a right to ask and that they needed to involve themselves in the education that was happening to them.  They had a right to an education that would work for them.

And within the courage of my students, I found my own courage.  Reclaimed it and held my head up high again.  Because the question should not have been why I dared to have students question their own education, but instead how I dared being an educator that didn’t…  Where is your courage?

PS:  In my district now this does not happen, next year’s teachers are some of the biggest supporters of student voice that I have ever met.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

4 thoughts on “How Dare You Teach Our Students to Speak Up?!

  1. Constructive discontent is so powerful when presented respectfully and persistently! Here is to every student and teacher having the courage to find their voices to ask the important questions. I always find the encouragement I need in your blog. Thank you for your always deep and honest reflections!

  2. This is me!!!! But I found out rather quickly that this doesn’t work in the private, Catholic school world. I was THAT teacher. The kids loved me, but I did not get asked back for another year. Live and learn.

  3. Yes, teaching them *how* to bring up their concerns is key. A few years back when I was teaching 7th this became an issue. The kids were moving to high school for 8th and they were very concerned about going back to a traditional model of school…so we brainstormed polite ways to ask questions, we talked about good/bad times to bring up concerns with assignments, etc…

    I really hope that helped them…and that maybe those skills will help them get what they need in other situations too!!!

    Gallit

    p.s. great chatting with you in person yesterday!

  4. This is self-advocacy at its finest! I work so hard to get my students to learn to speak up for themselves, to ask for a modification or accommodation that would make an assignment more comprehensible to them, to ask for an additional explanation, and to question when services are not provided that should be and to respectfully insist that they do be. I am often criticized for this because most teachers do not want to be questioned by their students, but if these future adults are to be successful they need to know how to speak up, get their lawful rights, and make changes to be able to fulfill their responsibilities successfully.

    Keep doing what you are doing. Your students, and all students, deserve to be taught how to speak up (politely, respectfully, and determinedly).

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