Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 1 – 2020-21
Student Leadership
James Layman speaks to students at a school assembly at Monroe High School.
Nothing For Us Without Us
The time is now for student voice
James Layman
Program Director, AWSL
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture, Engaging Families and Communities, Closing the Gap Section: In Every Issue
“The individuals who really live the full effects of procedures, policies, and curriculum in schools are the students.”
– Aubrey (AWSL Student Equity Cohort member) What happens when adults get out of the way and allow students opportunities to lead, speak their truths, and we as adults become the students?
Greatness. The Association of Washington Student Leaders’ mission has been to provide student leadership opportunities that support and increase the social success of all students. This past year, we internally asked ourselves, “How are we living our mission?” It began with the AWSL Student Voice and Advisory Council working alongside us, examining how AWSL can be more effective for students. This group of students worked with AWSP to provide student voice and stories to crucial issues taking place in our schools and the world. The Student Voice and Advisory Council was, and will continue to be, a driving force of our work, and allow us to cease doing to students, but rather do with students. 2020 has been a year of reflection and challenging the status quo. We knew our organization could take a more significant step toward elevating student voice. We had started our equity journey years ago, but it was time to listen to the most prominent stakeholders in our school system – the students. AWSL launched our Student Equity Cohort this summer. With a social media blast, we had 60 students who wanted to take part in this group in 48 hours. We knew any opportunity we had to learn from students; it would prove to be meaningful and significant. From our first Zoom meeting, it was apparent that not only did students have a lot to say, but they also craved adults taking the time to actively listen to their stories, experiences, opinions, and hopes.
We knew our organization could take a more significant step toward elevating student voice. We had started our equity journey years ago, but it was time to listen to the most prominent stakeholders in our school system – the students.
“The student equity cohort allowed me the opportunity to share and communicate in authentic and real ways. This is not always the vibe when students share with adults.”
– Hollen (AWSL Student Equity Cohort Member).
The Student Equity Cohort dove right into conversations about how AWSL can examine our practices and open the doors to most students. Students educated us on ways AWSL can support schools in dismantling potentially “toxic” ASB/student leadership culture to expand leadership opportunities to more students.
The Student Equity Cohort had the opportunity to share their concerns with the Associate Directors of AWSP (Jack Arend, Greg Barker, Scott Friedman, Kurt Hatch, Roz Thompson, and Gina Yonts). During this meeting, students engaged in conversations on student’s desires to strengthen their relationships with building leaders and engage in discussions about topics important to students, including race relations, equity, hate speech, and socio-economic inequalities that can plague the school environment. The Student Equity Cohort authored a guide featuring ways building leaders could enter into necessary and critical conversations with students, adults, and the community. As great as the guidebook they wrote was, the most illuminating moments came as students routinely shared, “how great it was to have adults listen to them,” especially regarding topics that can be uncomfortable.
Each Thursday evening, we got to sit in a classroom with the world’s greatest teachers – the students. They shared and provided context on how and where harm is taking place in their school. They shared about wanting to become agents of change in their schools and communities. They shared about the inequities they feel, see, and experience within their school, and most importantly, they shared their hope and desire for a better tomorrow. It is time to let kids these days serve as our compass and guiding light as we live through a new collective experience. It is time to let kids these days know that their stories and experiences are real and important. It is time to open our ears and our hearts to let kids these days educate us on their world and who they are as people. It is time to create opportunities for kids these days to have a seat at the table. Let us enter this next chapter of education with the most in need, taking the lead. Kids these days . . . are ready!
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Washington Principal | Volume 1 – 2020-21