Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Student Advisory Group

by AJ

One of the suggestions I recently made to the director of our school was this: establish a student advisory group.

By this I mean that students in each class select 2-3 representatives. These representatives will meet on their own to discuss issues related to the school. Theyll also join us during staff meetings. Their mission will be to advocate for students, push for student-centric improvements, and join in the management of the school.

Im happy to say we will give this a try. I see this as a first step towards integrating students, teachers, and staff... erasing the rigid lines that separate them. At TU, students had absolutely no voice. They were treated like children... to be taught and controlled by teachers and the administrators. The idea that they should have a voice... and decision making power... was perhaps my most radical heresy. I adapted my classes based on their goals and priorities-- a big no-no in an autocratic bureaucracy.

But its a smart strategy in a school that depends on student enrollment for its survival. We cant rely on the force of massive government propaganda to keep students coming... we've actually got to satisfy them. In fact, we've got to do more than that.. we've got to turn them into passionate raving maniac fans of our school. That, at least, is my goal.

Step by step, we're getting there. Ive noticed a very encouraging trend: my class enrollment is increasing. The more I talk to students, the better I understand their needs, the better they understand my ideas... and the more I employ comprehensible-input based methods.. the more they come to class. Not only are they coming.. punctuality is also improving.

Truth be told, I prefer the crucible of this type of environment. I hate grades.. though I understand why teachers and bureaucrats love them. Grades shift they balance of power to the teacher's favor. When you can hold a bad grade over their head, you can get away with being boring and irrelevant. Not so in my current environment. If they feel the class (or school) is not helping them, its a small matter for them to leave.. or transfer elsewhere.

Public schools should be subjected to the same evolutionary pressures. Student power is not the fearsome threat most teacher-admins think. It is, in fact, the single best contributor to innovation... and the single most powerful contributor to program success.

If nothing else, do this. Hand over power to the students. THEY will lead you to success in the long run.. There's no need to rely solely on your own resources.