By Spencer Izen and Emily Shi
Grade 9 students at Eric Hamber Secondary
One of the primary goals of the Vancouver School District is to give students a voice in their schools and their education system. It was in this pursuit that students were invited to participate in the District's Student Forum held on February 7, 2019. Students from all over the District gathered to talk about the issues that matter to them most.
Student leaders were part of the organizing committee from the start – and were actually those who made decisions about the plan for the day and the theme – which was Student VOICE: Voice Our Ideas and Change Education.
"The day is all about gathering ideas from students about education and where they think things can get better - where they want to go, their hopes and dreams" summarizes Tricia Legg, a District administrator involved in the planning of the event.
Students were excited at the prospect of sharing their collective ideas and opinions with others - with the intent to create change. "I'm excited to express my opinion and hopefully make suggestions that will spur changes in my school as well as the school district," says Eric Hamber Secondary student Erika Chung.
The forum was opened with an inspiring speech from Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman. Hoffman spoke about the duty of educators toward students and emphasized the importance of voice - the ultimate theme of the event. "It would be very wrong of us as educators to not value or not listen to the student voice. You [students] are our audience, you are the reason we are here," Hoffman says. She added how this sense of duty influenced the new B.C. curriculum, which was implemented this school year for Kindergarten to Grade 10 (with Grades 11 and 12 coming next year).
Questions around opportunities that allow students to learn the best and what supports are necessary to ensure student voice is heard, guided dialogue among participants. One common theme of the discussions was the desire for greater choice and variability – from more options in types of classes students can take, to more clubs and volunteer options.
Another theme echoed by many students was the desire for school environments that are more inviting, for students to choose how to use their voice and more events such as the student forum.
Further into the afternoon, students were asked to think of some design statements to improve their educational experience within the District. Ideas shared included creating more individualized programs to promote career choices and success being measured with improvement as well as grades.
The event was brought to a close with empowering speeches from Associate Superintendent Rob Schindel and Director of Instruction Aaron Davis. They summarized that the District will identify key themes from the forum and look to develop and implement plans for action. "What I take away from today is how important it is to hear your [the students'] voice," said Davis.
The event was undoubtedly a massive success for the District and students alike. Students from all over the District came together with the hope of sharing their voice and the event accomplished just that. With the abundance of input, suggestions and solutions offered by students during the event, there is every reason to believe that student voice will impact education in the District for the better.