CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.
Student Voices Blog Series: Manchester West High School
For the past year and a half, the Center for Collaborative Education has been partnering with Manchester High School West (Manchester West) as recipients of a Preparing for Post-Secondary Success Through the Wider Learning Ecosystem grant through the Barr Foundation. With this grant, Manchester High School West is redesigning its programming to reflect a culture of personalized, rigorous experiences that ensure each student is prepared for college, career and citizenship. In its planning process, Manchester West is thoughtfully including students in the design process through both membership on the design team and participation in a student course on school design. Two students who have become leaders in the design work were generous to sit down with CCE’s Carisa Corrow and Diana Lebeaux to share about their experiences.
CCE: How did you become involved with the design team work in your school?
Tiffanie: I began my redesign path at West when Mr. Dichard, who is my school principal, reached out to me for an awesome opportunity to visit a Big Picture Learning school in Syracuse, New York. I took the opportunity right away because I was so excited about the change that was about to happen and I got to be one of the first ones who got to be a part of it. Last year, my freshman English teacher Ms. Mahoney asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Cultural Team of Redesign and I took the opportunity again. Then as junior year started, Ms. Mahoney wanted me to be a part of the student representatives for the Monthly Redesign meeting.
Kimiya: I became involved in the design team work after being asked by the principal in an email. Mr. Dichard had sent an email to me and a few friends asking if we wanted to join in the redesign process. A few months later, we were asked to take a school site visit in Lafayette, NY during February vacation. Tiffanie, Ena, and I took a trip with 5 other adults and got the opportunity to see how the Big Picture Learning school runs. It was very different than our school but it gave us ideas that we thought would be amazing for Manchester High School West. After the trip, Tiffanie and I attended meetings about the process and were asked to be on the student culture team.
CCE: What does it mean to you to be a member of the design team?
Kimiya: It means a lot to me because I am a strong believer in education. I think every student should be provided a beneficial education. School should be a place where students want to go, and I think it has become the total opposite. I think by being part of the design team, it allows adults to talk to students who understand what is best for the whole student body. I also want opportunities like internships to be implemented in my learning process because it will allow me to test what I want to be.
Tiffanie: I feel like my voice is being heard and it matters when I am a part of the redesign team.
CCE: How do you think your perspective (as a student) might be different than the perspective of other (adult) members of the team?
Tiffanie: As a student at West, I know how I feel and know what needs to be changed. As a teacher, they know what will work based on how previous students behaved.
Kimiya: I think having the perspective of a student is different than an adult's because we are the ones learning in the classroom. We as students are the ones who are going to be going off after high school with what were given. If we are able to tell the adults what we want, they might be able to understand how we feel about the way we are taught. I also think having a student’s perspective allows the sense of leadership that most students strive for.
CCE: What is one of the most exciting conversations or experiences you have had as a member of the design team?
Tiffanie: Some of the most exciting things about redesign for me is the schedule change and lunch change.
Kimiya: I think the most exciting conversation was the last meeting we had as a big committee. We went over the plans for the new block schedule we want to implement and how it will benefit the students and teachers. We also got to brainstorm about changing advisory, because our school has been having difficulties with the concept. We as students were able to sit down and lead the conversation on how we are going to change advisory to benefit each grade level. I particularly liked the conversation because Kyle, from Boys and Girls Club of Manchester, guided us to think in the minds of every student. Not just the ones like us who know what they are doing in life and excel in school. We were forced to think about the students who aren’t sure what they want and might not be at the level they want.
CCE: What is your biggest "wish" for changes to your high school?
Tiffanie: I want to change the learning atmosphere, I feel like everyone should come into school and have the want to learn. I also want the grading system to be more fair. I want more people in our school who can help with the process of applying to college, etc. Lastly, I want more school spirit.
Kimiya: My biggest “wish” for my school is that most students will WANT to go to school, not feel like it’s a place where they are forced to go. I want students to be able to get out in the community and figure out what they are interested in. I think that it’s hard, especially in Manchester, to see change but I think with this step we are going to be more accepting of change. I wish that we can get the community to open their doors to internship based learning, to allow students to understand what life is going to be like after high school (whether or not they go to college).