The VSB has been hard at work these past few weeks to kick start a chain of events that will lead to changes in our education system informed by student voice. The goal is to develop a school system for the near future in which student opinion and input is of utmost importance.
The first step to completing this goal has already been successfully implemented. On Tuesday, January 31st 2012 the VSB hosted a student forum at the Roundhouse Community Center. It consisted of 250 students from all around the district . The point of this forum was to begin the process of creating the founding ideas which will shape the education system of tomorrow.
That Tuesday morning, students began to trickle in around 8:30am to receive their name-tags and sign in. Initially, there was an air of excitement and anticipation on the organizers part and one of timid interest by the participants; however the DT House Band "Room 202" did a great job in setting a friendly and 'chill' atmosphere by playing some of todays top hits. Once all the participants had taken a seat the lively MC's took the stage with introductions and a small description of the day and its purpose. Subsequently, Tanya Zambrano a drama teacher from Templeton, lead everyone through several Icebreaking exercises to get all the students relaxed and comfortable with their peers.Once everyone felt more open and sociable the day truly began and ideas started pouring down.
The first activity was the Interview Matrix. Every participant was assigned a number (1 to 4), this number represented which questions you had to ask and which ones you had to answer. In this activity every student was asked to respond to two questions regarding their education; the questions were:
- What opportunities in Vancouver schools have allowed you to learn the best?
- What opportunities could be created to improve student learning in the VSB schools?
- What supports are necessary to ensure student voice is heard in schools and district structures and systems?
- What student actions are necessary to expand on the relevant personalized learning opportunities in VSB schools?
The students who asked the questions where instructed to write down any thoughts which came up which they thought were interesting and addressed the question with insight and thoughtfulness. Through this Interview Matrix many ideas began to rise and with every response new strong student voices began to be heard. Once every interviewer had sheets filled out with responses and everyone had been interviewed all the people with the same number sat down together; they used the written responses to create more concrete ideas that they thought could potentially become a reality in the near future. To create these tangible ideas, students were to look for patterns that emerged from the interview responses and analyze them to see if they could merge them into bigger ideas.
Once most of the information had been analyzed and proper ideas had been synthesized students began to create design statements. These design statements are supposed to envelope all of the ideas discussed by the group and provide direction to the decisions, actions and results to be made at the VSB.
All the design statements were then put up around the walls of the center and students got to go around to see all of them. Each student was given a number of green, yellow and red sticky dots and if a student really like a statement the stuck a green dot on it, if the statement was only 'satisfactory' they stuck a yellow dot on and if they disliked the idea they stuck a red dot on. By the end of this "Dotmocracy" it was pretty clear which statements most students wanted to see become reality.
This Forum is only the beginning. There are already some steps planned to move the planning forward.
On February 17, secondary school administrators participated in a professional development day that incorporated the student forum data and how it can be connected to the BC Education Plan. As well, student facilitators are being trained on February 24 to learn to facilitate small forums at their individual schools so that every single student in the district is informed and can speak out. In addition, these students will be help to facilitate public consultation meetings about VSB programs and facilities in April.
Currently, our Student Forum Working Group is consolidating the data collected from forum and this will be shared with district management, trustees, school-based administrators, and teachers in order to create a movement for change while building capacity to expand on the ideas generated at the forum.