Creating A Student Voice Board!
There is a rising epidemic of mental health issues in schools. According to an article by Anderson & Cardoza (2016), 1 in 5 students in the US shows signs of mental health disorders in a given year which manifest in the form of anxiety, depression, and the like. These mental health issues are commonly the catalyst for common issues in school such as chronic illness, absences and missing work.
However, these students often remain silent and go unnoticed as their struggles are at times invisible.
In an effort to combat some of these issues, as well as provide students with a safe space to share and connect, we created a student voice board.
Our initial thoughts were to create an online platform for students to share and connect as this is the common form of communication for our students, however some of the potential issues with this would be difficulties in moderation in an offline environment and potential for cyber bullying.
In order to work on promoting positive digital citizenship skills in a safe space; we decided to create the board in the classroom of one of the founding teachers. The initial board included a question of the week section, a doodle board, and a section for students to post any issues important to them. We enthusiastically posted an announcement, and hoped for student engagement and participation.
However, our initial enthusiasm was met with dismay as students seemed disinterested in participating. Upon inquiring into reasons why, our students informed us that there was a lack of participation due to a disconnect between the board and what they loved about online-the ability to anonymously post questions and answers. As issues of cyber bullying and lack of ability to moderate posts were still of concern, we made some changes to the board to incorporate elements of an online environment. We moved the student voice board to a school hallway in lieu of the teachers class (in order to provide students with more ease and comfort in approaching the board). Furthermore, we provided students with cue cards and envelopes to post questions which we then posted on the board and an additional envelope in which students could post responses to questions posed on the board.
These methods of incorporating aspects of an online environment were effective in attracting student participation. Here is a picture of the final board:
The students began asking powerful questions which reaffirmed a need for a place for safe discussion.
Have you tried something similar in your school? What were the challenges you faced?
This exercise demonstrated to myself and my colleague the power of technology to provide students who might otherwise have difficulty communicating in different means a powerful form of expression. Furthermore, online elements can be incorporated into an offline environment. It is not pertinent for schools to have the most advanced technological setup to engage their students, but rather more important to have conversations with students to identify what they respond to, and connect with them in their language and context.
Anderson, M., & Cardoza, K. (2016, August 31). Mental Health In Schools: A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions Of Students. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/08/31/464727159/mental-health-in-schools-a-hidden-crisis-affecting-millions-of-students