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 Voice Blog Series: Somerville High School
At the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE), we are committed to elevating student voice: in the classroom, in school culture, and in out-of-school spaces. We believe that student’s voices matter and that students are capable of being agents of their own learning. It has long been a strategy of ours to make sure that educators and school leaders have opportunities to hear from student voices: sometimes their own, and sometimes not. We believe we can learn so much from students if and when we give them the chance to be heard, which is why we are very excited to be launching a new series of student voices through blogs and vlogs.
Each month, we will be releasing a new interview of a K-12 student—or groups of students—from various types of school settings (urban, rural, public, pilot, innovation, etc.). Our hope is that the questions we ask, and the answers they offer, provide insights and inspiration for educators, school and district leaders, and even policy makers. We have no agenda other than to elevate the voices of students across all demographic groups. You will find that our questions are simple, and their answers are impactful. Please note that for privacy purposes, we will only share students’ first name, year, and school, and may choose to omit elements of answers that we believe might make the student publicly identifiable. With that said, I am pleased to present out first student voice, Edith from Somerville.
On a cool September morning, I walked into the Guidance Counselors’ Office of Somerville High School (SHS) in Somerville, Massachusetts. Waiting in a conference room was Edith, an 11th grade student at Somerville High. Edith appeared a bit shy, so I let out a few corny jokes as we introduced ourselves and I shared with her about our student voices project. After a couple of minutes, I asked if Edith was ready to answer a few questions, and we began.
Laura: You’re an 11th grader at SHS, halfway through your high school career. Did you do anything fun this summer before coming back to what will surely be a busy year?
Edith: Umm, well, I went on all of my college visits this summer.
Oh my. From what I remember of my own experience touring colleges, I’m glad to hear that you would call that fun!
[Chuckles] Yeah, I’m kind of specific about what I might want to be my major in college, so I only had to visit a few schools.
Well, I’m glad to hear that. So, have you been in Somerville Public Schools for all of your K-12 education so far?
No, I started in another school, but have been in Somerville [for a while].
And how do you like it here? What excites you about school?
Well, I actually really like school; I like learning. I’m someone who’s excited for the first day and happy to be working on homework when I get home.
I have to admit, I always loved school, too. I could never sleep the last night of summer, just anticipating the first day.
You love learning, which is awesome, what are your favorite subjects to study?
Math. I love math. And science, too. I really like to be right, to get answers right. In math and science, there’s really always a right answer. It’s not like English or art where there might be many correct answers. I like the certainty of math.
And I imagine that you feel that same level of certainty in many science subjects, too, right?
Yes. Math and science are alike to me.
On the other end, then, what do you find challenging about school? What’s your not-so-favorite part?
The busyness. We just take so many courses. And there’s so much we all have to take.
You mean like requirements?
Yes. So many requirements. I just wish I could take more classes that I want to take.
What do you wish you could take?
I wish there were more math electives and I wish I could take some more advanced courses.
Have you asked any of your teachers before if there might be more opportunities?
No, I haven’t really thought of it.
Well, on that note, do you feel like your voice is heard as a student? For example, if you asked for a certain elective, do you feel like your teachers would listen and maybe try to provide new courses?
I think a little; some of them would.
As someone who likes learning, I imagine you have some teachers you have pretty good relationships with, right?
So what is one thing that a teacher here at SHS has done to really engage you in your learning? What’s something the teacher did that made you excited to learn?
At this point, Edith sits up a bit taller and her face lights up.
[Laughs] My math teacher makes me excited to learn.
Can you tell me a little about why?
Well, my math teacher gives us these problems of the day at the start of class. We all get the same question and we have a while to answer as a warm up. I’m usually done fast, and I usually get the question right, so lately he’s been trying to stump me with his questions.
What do you mean “stump” you?
He’ll give me an extra question, or a separate question, at the start of class that will be really hard. It’s only happened once, but he stumped me once and he started cheering. It made me laugh, and it made me determined to not let it happen again!
How does it make you feel, when you get the hard questions? What does it say about your teacher?
Well, I know that he knows I want to be pushed and that I think it’s fun when he tries to stump me. I like that it keeps me busy, and it makes me happy when I get the questions right.
Sounds like he knows you well.
Yes, I think he does.
Do you wish you had more of that?
Yeah, not all of my teachers are like that.
On that note then—and this is the last question, I promise!—if you could design your very own school, what are one or two things that would be true?
One thing would be fewer classes.
Fewer graduation requirements?
No, I mean, fewer classes at once so I don’t have seven classes of homework each night. And fewer kids in my classes. There are a lot of kids in my classes. Like in math, I go faster than the other kids, so even though I like math, I get bored. And more time to think about college and jobs.
What do you mean by that?
I mean, time to figure out what you want to major in. In college you can’t really just major in “math” or “science,” so time to think about what jobs you might want to have.
Have you had any internship opportunities here?—and sorry, I know I already said “last question.”
It’s okay. No, I’ve been too busy with school. But I think it would be hard to get an internship on top of school and clubs and such. I would want to, though, if I had time.