Okay...StuCamp Happened. What's Next?

StuCamp happened. StuCamp was awesome. Now that StuCamp has happened, it's time to reflect. This post will be a very frank and candid reflection on how things went and what we need to plan for next year. The week following up to StuCamp: mass chaos. Friday before StuCamp: Thanks to @coffeechugbooks and @gscholtens, we had a list and a plan. 7:00 morning of StuCamp: finishing touches and a very large coffee. 8:00 morning of StuCamp: Our first camper arrived. Another teammate, @mrsturp came to help. The rest of the day: A blur. Details: Students started to arrive around 8:20 that morning. They were timid, but greeted warmly. A major highlight of registration time can when one middle school showed up in a school bus. I was thrilled. before long 65 people were seated in the commons of our school ready to start the first StuCamp. I explained very nicely that the sessions needed to be solution based and, oh, teachers cannot propose sessions. Session topics came in fits and starts. The session schedule is here. The session topics were quite telling. It showed that students want their audience to understand who they are, but, almost more importantly, it showed they want to understand the education system to which they are subjected. That is significant. There can be time for specifics, but I want to spend this blog reflecting on the main take aways from StuCamp (I love lists):

  • Students don't know how to StuCamp.

  • Teachers don't know how to StuCamp.

  • Shocker! Both teachers and students have misconceptions about school.

  • The leaders need leadership.

Students don't know how to StuCamp. As the concept of StuCamp is a new one, or at least not regularly practiced, students don't know how to StuCamp. By that I mean they don't know how to organize their communication to reach a goal oriented end. That's probably because they haven't practiced. However, given the opportunity they can. Here is how it played out at StuCamp: Students were in a session on discipline. The students were sitting around a table, and teachers were sitting against the wall behind the students. The student conversation was a mess. A hot mess. People were talking over each other, students were talking about certain teachers and how mean they were, and others were bragging about how they did this and the response of the teacher. It was a mess. Finally, and suddenly, one of the 10th graders said, "Guys, we are not going to have a conversation like this. We need to get organized. You (pointing to someone across the table) had something to say." When people tried to revert to the previous organizational structure, the group would correct the behavior. What happened was they set their own norms, and then were able to improve the effectiveness of their communication as the progressed through the day. But for that to happen, the teachers had to allow the students to decide this for themselves. This brings us to our next point. Teacher's don't know how to StuCamp. Teachers are organizers. It's what we do. We ask leading questions. We illicit responses from our students. We are organizers. Professionally. We found out that there is no place for this at StuCamp. We had some teachers feel they needed to help the conversations go, and I'm here to tell you that they don't. So here's what happened: As we established, students are not great communicators. In one of the sessions students were proving that. So, a teacher or two were trying to move the conversations along by asking questions and adding things that may spark conversation. It was not well received. So, I talked to the teacher during lunch. The conversation was very organic, but I may have lead the topic a bit. The teacher came to me and said something about the kids not jumping into the conversation. I said that I understood, but I thought that we needed to let the awkwardness happen because it is in that awkwardness that a latent leader may be called to initiate. Initiative is a quality not regularly seen in your everyday student, but what is the worth of providing a space for initiative to be practiced? StuCamp is that space. If we fill that space with teacher talk, initiative is never needed or, much less, practiced. Teachers learned how to StuCamp. The teachers took to physically removing themselves from the conversation; sort of. In each classroom students would organize themselves in a circle. Teachers would then form an outer circle. While students were making their opinions known, teachers were tweeting feverishly, smiling, and tweeting again. It was transformational. That's not hyperbole. Teachers witnessed the power of student voice/agency and wanted to tell the world. It was magic. Shocker! Both teachers and students have misconceptions about school. There were a couple of conversations (NCLB and school funding) that seemed to put opinions or attitudes of teachers and students at odds. I heard one teacher flat out say, "you just don't understand." I was kind of surprised. Why do we not explain more to students? During the NCLB conversation, the role of paraeducators came up. One student asked, "why is it that only the students who struggle get a para?" I think this is an interesting question. Do students understand the function of paraeducators in our school? I think they do, but what the student was asking is why don't students who need to be pushed get the same kind of attention? So, I think that we, as educators, need to reevaluate was is important for students to know. I think if they were aware of some of those things they "just don't understand" the culture of our classroom and schools would change. Last takeaway: The leaders need leadership. One of my grounders (@mrsturp) wrote a great blog post on this here, and really drove home the fact that students don't know what to do next. This is not the fault of the student. They just see their ability to embrace agency thwarted by the years they have been on the planet. These leaders need leadership from teachers who believe the student's ability to claim and exercise that agency is worth championing. But, this is hard. Students want to change the world, but they want it to happen now. They need leadership that can explain the process of that change and guide those students through that process. They need leaders who can see the small wins along the way as initiative to complete the process. Our students need leaders who believe what they believe. Who believe it is unacceptable that the people most effected by education are the ones who are least consulted. They need the leaders who came to StuCamp and they need leaders like you. Be the voice. Be heard. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged, Dane Barner