How Do We Get Started?
A few conditions must be in place for
your partnership effort to be successful:
Adults need to be willing to listen
to student ideas and feedback.
Students need to be willing to take
on responsibility and gain authority.
Both student and adults need the
skills to work successfully together.
Main Points for Adults
Treat students as individuals; don't
expect one student to represent all students. Students often
believe that adults carry negative images of students and often
generalize from the behavior of a few. Assure your students that
you are interested in their individual opinions, and don't expect
them to embody an entire population, whether a gender, grade
level, school, or community.
Speak by listening. For the
partnership to work, students must feel that they are valued and
respected. In many student-adult relationships, that respect is
lacking. When interrupted by an adult, students usually stop
talking. Both parties need to respect each other's right to voice
opinions without criticism or censure. Don’t interpret for
students what they can explain for themselves.
Don't expect more from students than
you would from adults. If a student shows up for a meeting 15
minutes late, an adult might think, “Here’s a slacker.” When a
fellow adult shows up 15 minutes late, the same person might
think, “That's understandable. They've got deadlines and
pressures.” So do students.
Main Points for Students
Criticism isn’t always an insult.
Sometimes when adults offer criticism to a student, they are
treating the student the same way they would someone their own
age. Remember that adults are used to critiquing each others'
ideas. Just because they disagree doesn't mean they are dismissing
Adults may not be aware of how
capable you are. Maybe they don't teach students in your grade, so
they aren’t sure what to expect. You can teach them about student
voice by showing them you can handle mature situations.
Adults are ultimately responsible
for the success or failure of improving your school. That is why
it is hard for adults to share power and authority. They need
reassurance that you are willing to share in the successes and
It's okay to ask for help when you
don't know how to do something. Nobody expects you to have all the
“right” answers, or even the best ones. Be yourself, be creative,
and get excited about changing YOUR school!
Adapted by SoundOut from "Creating
Youth/Adult Partnerships" by Vermont School Boards Association,