FROM THE DESK OF CARMEN GELMAN…
Something I’ve Learned
Over the past two years I have spent time in high schools up and down the west coast, as a consultant around college and career readiness. In my role I wear many hats, but working with students is what I enjoy most—listening to their voices, and asking them what they think is best for their education and the world they live in. Whenever I have the opportunity, I will run listening sessions in the hopes of helping school leadership teams with problems of practice, while giving students a voice and a platform to effect change in their school.
I have been pleasantly surprised to find that regardless of what school I’m in or where it’s located, a common thread of social justice is woven through and comes out loud and clear. I’m always excited about the fact that students really care about what is going on in their community, and most importantly, what is going on with other students in their school. Students want to be in a school where ALL kids are treated fairly, where everyone gets opportunities to thrive, and to be a part of something. Every time I’ve had the chance to ask students what project they want to work on as a group, it always leans towards something that helps other students, like a good freshman transition program for incoming 9th graders, creating a culture on campus that is free of discrimination and harassment, or making sure that students from all races and cultures are included in activities on campus.
Our role as educators is to give students a platform to advocate, and create a system that allows student input to help drive the school’s strategic direction. This type of system can create real change and students get to be part of the solution. How powerful is that? Social justice gives all students a way to feel empowered, but it’s especially powerful with students who have been traditionally underserved, because it gives them a voice, and provides a place for them to talk about their experiences, how they can become social agents, and how they can make a difference in the world. Social justice is up and coming in conversations as it pertains to students and education. There are studies that show significant positive changes in schools that have a social justice bent. Not only does it create a better community on campus but it gives kids a lens to see themselves in a more positive light and critical skills that they will use beyond high school.