Adults rarely stop to ask students what their schools are like, what is working and not working for them, and what their schools could do differently to support them in their learning and growth.
To help remedy this gap, the Education Law Clinic at Harvard Law School hosted eight Listening and Learning Sessions with 73 young people who attend secondary schools in urban settings across Massachusetts. The purpose of these sessions, which were conducted in February and March 2019, was to hear from young people about what they need to do well in school, what their schools might do differently to help them do well, and how their schools should be assessed.
Students expressed a variety of needs related to social, emotional, and academic concerns and their physical comfort in their learning environments. Generally, students stated that their best learning experiences occurred when teachers have positive, respectful relationships with them and create calm, safe, and comfortable classroom environments. They want strong academic scaffolding and learning environments where they feel safe and comfortable to ask questions and learn. Students also expressed a desire to have their teachers and administrators understand them and their needs.
The report from these Listening and Learning Sessions, entitled Students’ Voices: Their Perspectives on How Schools Are and Should Be, was presented to the Massachusetts Safe and Supportive Schools Commission in June 2019. It contains numerous direct quotes from the students highlighting their experiences and priorities for how schools could improve.