Discuss building student interest

Insights for Parents

Discuss building student interest

Councils were created to help schools find the best ways to prepare students to meet academic standards and be ready for success in college and careers. Encouraging students to be involved citizens and know how to propose solutions to problems develops important skills. In preparing students to become engaged leaders, councils should consider:

Supporting ownership of learning and student engagement

Council members should discuss the culture of teaching and learning within the school and the expectation for the role students play. A first step toward greater student participation can be making sure students are engaged in everyday learning experiences and feel a sense of ownership for what they will gain from their time in school.

Council Leadership > Offer your opinion and those of other parents about how connected students feel to the material taught in classes as well as the types of activities teachers select to help students learn. Parents have a unique view of how the intentions of teachers and education leaders are really working for students. Share that perspective, thinking as widely as possible about the experiences of children across the school.
Day-to-Day Leadership > Talk to your children about when they have felt most interested and engaged in the learning at school. Ask children what they could do themselves to feel more connected to learning.

Giving students a larger voice in school issues and improvement plans

As the group that oversees major school issues, the council can be a forum for making sure students understand issues being considered, to the point of having students sit in as representatives. Students should be able to grasp many education decisions that confront councils and provide insight on a variety of issues. Councils should look for ways within existing structures to give students opportunities for greater input.

Council Leadership > Make sure you understand how the school gathers and uses student opinions and suggestions. If your council is considering involving students, think about how they can be informed and assisted in gaining knowledge about council operations and issues. As a parent, you may have a good idea of how the council can be more friendly to participants who don't have a professional education background.
Day-to-Day Leadership > Involve your children in decisions you make at home. Discuss issues they need to be aware of, possible solutions, and other factors for making choices. Talk about how you make decisions.

Cultivating wider leadership and involvement opportunities

Beyond education and school, the community and wider world offer many opportunities for students to learn about issues and find creative ways to express their opinions or become part of groups working on issues. To help students become leaders, councils should consider how students are already involved, then build on their interests, knowledge, and participation skills.

Council Leadership > Think about ways students at your schools could be more plugged in to community issues or topics at the state level or beyond. Share your ideas for how much this should be part of the school's goals for teaching students.
Day-to-Day Leadership > Talk to students about what made you choose to become involved in local issues, like being part of the school council. Discuss other ways that people you know make contributions as involved citizens and leaders and how that benefits them as well as others.

"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people."
— Mahatma Gandhi, leader for independence in India


The UNICEF International Child Development Centre described efforts to move children and students to higher levels of activity, leading to a strong sense of citizenship:

1. Manipulation —
Adults use youth to support causes and pretend the causes are inspired by the youth.

2. Decoration — Youth are given symbolic but ultimately meaningless roles to make the organizer look good.

3. Tokenism — Young people appear to have a voice, but in fact they have little choice about their roles and responsibilities.

4. Assigned but informed —
Youth are assigned specific roles and informed about how and why they are being involved.

5. Consulted and informed — Youth give advice, but decisions are made by adults.

6. Adult-initiated, shared decisions with children — Projects or programs are initiated by adults but decision-making is shared with youth.

7. Youth-adult shared decisions — Youth and adults offer and accept each other's ideas, and young people's input on decisions is as valued as that of the adults.

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