My name is Oreoluwa Tubi and I am a freshman at a vocational-technical school. Today, I want to talk about how important it is for schools to listen to students about the issues and problems that are most important to us. Responding to the issues we care about is helpful for students and makes us feel listened to. At school, I often feel like students do not have a chance to speak up about issues we would like to see the school addressing. Adults and students do not always share the same perspective, and often the adults make us feel like they know more about our own experiences than we do. I want to talk about the importance of providing students a structure to identify issues and concerns that matter to us.
Putting systems in place for student feedback matters because students should feel more comfortable talking to adults in schools – like teachers, guidance counselors, and principals. Adults should hear what students have to say, instead of assuming what we need and coming up with programming on topics that students do not care about in our day-to-day lives. I think this would make it better for students to feel like we have a voice, instead of feeling shut down when we have a topic that matters to us. Having systems and structures for listening to students’ concerns is an important part of creating safe and supportive schools. I feel like our schools can do more to understand the issues that impact students so that students can get help from administrators, instead of having to seek support elsewhere.
When students feel like there is no adult to trust during tough situations, we go somewhere else for advice or we try to cope by ourselves. I see this happening on social media, especially when it comes to misinformation and cyberbullying. When there is no outlet in school for raising our concerns, students bring issues to social media. Then, social media can start situations that do not need to be started in the first place. Students go to social media to vent their concerns and try to solve problems, then they go back to school and the situation worsens.
I use social media a lot, and that is where I get a lot of information. Some people post false information and I know some of the things I see are not true, but sometimes we believe it and do not tell an adult because we are scared to tell someone. If students are scared to tell someone then they are going to just keep it to themselves and figure out their own way to solve that situation.
For example, there was a day when there was a snow day, and some students felt like we shouldn’t have school because getting to school would be a hazard to students living in Brockton. My school takes students from all across the region. Other parts of the school district had their snow cleared off the sidewalks, but Brockton did not. This made me feel fearful about walking in the streets to get to the bus stop due to the snow. Multiple students reached out to the school to explain their concerns, but the school was not responsive and seemed a bit frustrated by the students emailing them about the same issue. We were concerned about getting to school safely but did not feel listened to. This led to everyone going on social media to point out that it did not feel fair to have a school day. Although I understand why the school made that decision, I wish we felt more listened to. In this situation, how would you feel as a Brockton student if the school dismissed concerns about your safety? Most Brockton schools did not have school, but we did. I am NOT disappointed by their final decision not to have a snow day, but I AM disappointed that the school missed an opportunity to listen to us and care about our concerns.
Structures for ensuring students feel listened to can help in these situations. Instead of putting business on social media that has to do with their schools, students should have a chance to share their concerns in person and adults should hear what students have to say and find helpful ways to act on things that matter to students. When these systems are in place, this is the beginning of bringing trust and relationships to create safe and supportive schools.
Oreoluwa on what it was like to work with the Students Speak program
“Although I understand why the school made that decision, I wish we felt more listened to. In this situation, how would you feel as a Brockton student if the school dismissed concerns about your safety? Most Brockton schools did not have school, but we did. I am NOT disappointed by their final decision not to have a snow day, but I AM disappointed that the school missed an opportunity to listen to us and care about our concerns.”
“When these systems are in place, this is the beginning of bringing trust and relationships to create safe and supportive schools,”