The Power of Student Voice

The Power of Student Voice

Student voice is at the center of Wellington’s unique approach to education. Children of all ages are encouraged and supported to express their thoughts, talents, and passions. Whether on the stage, at a lectern, in their writing, or in a personal exchange, Wellington students are bold and self-assured when they share themselves with the world.

Live performances in lower school help students build confidence while also exploring new forms of creative self-expression. In the recent 3rd grade play, “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the United States,” students had the opportunity to not only learn the ins and outs of theatre production but also showcase everything they had been learning in class. They opened with a song entirely in French before launching into a clever parody of the popular show “Top Chef” in which a team of participants searched across the U.S. for the finest ingredients to make their apple pie. Along the way, facts about the various states were shared along with an impressive display of math facts, also integral in the life of a baker. Check out more photos from the 3rd grade play on Vidigami

Public-speaking is another pillar of student voice at Wellington. Students don’t just master subject matter, they are able to adeptly articulate what they have learned. Honing essay writing in middle school lends itself to students sharing their thoughts with the community beyond the classroom. In 7th grade, students wrote “This I Believe” essays about a personal experience that impacted their worldview in some way. A few of the topics included: overcoming personal fears, the importance of family, learning to be brave, celebrating individuality, and the key to curiosity. After students wrote, revised, and polished their essays, they presented their work to an audience of peers and parents. Their bravery in not only writing about something deeply meaningful to them personally but also sharing it in a public forum was inspirational for all.

Listening is just as important as talking when it comes to developing student voice. To truly hear what someone says and be able to respond with empathy and understanding is the foundation for effective, powerful communication. In upper school journalism, students recently practiced their interview skills with an assignment called the “One-Question Interview,” in which they were asked to conduct a 20 minute interview with only one question prepared.

“It’s deliberately hard,” Keith Leonard P ‘33, upper school English teacher, explained. “Students have to actively listen, and through that listening extend the conversation with follow up questions. From that interview, they practice editing by cutting down the tape to a particularly good five minute clip.”

As engaged participants during the interview process, students learn important skills in obtaining information, quickly absorbing and analyzing what they hear, and then appropriately responding, all with a clear objective in mind. The mental dexterity required in the exercise can be applied to a variety of academic and life scenarios.

Performing, public-speaking, and active listening are all fundamental to building confidence and poise in students as they learn to use their voices to be heard, powerfully.