When I mentioned the post I wrote for StuVoice.org last week, I felt like there was so much more to the Student Voice movement than just a 300 word article I wrote, so here’s a more through explanation of how the organization works and how it’s influenced me.
The mission of Student Voice is to get youth involved in education policy discussions, since students are the largest influencers of their learning and deserve to have their voices heard. Started by Zak Malamed, Student Voice was originally a Twitter chat where people would tweet about educated related issues with the hashtag #StudentVoice, later shortened to #StuVoice due to #140charprobs.
I first heard of StuVoice through a Huffington Post article after they had set up their website, StuVoice.org. At the time, StuVoice seemed like a great initiative, but I was unsure of how to get involved since I hadn’t created a Twitter yet, so I just let it sit in the back of my head. A few months later, I signed up for Twitter and rediscovered StuVoice through yet another HuffPost article, and I decided to check out a Twitter chat.
One Monday night in March, I nervously sent out a tweet hashtagged #StuVoice and hoped for the best. Immediately, people replied, welcoming me to the chat and favoriting my tweet. This was a huge deal for me. I was still learning the ropes of Twitter, and strangers were already interacting with me and giving me support. I decided to stay.
Everything continued going uphill from there. For the next hour, we bounced ideas off each other about education in 140 character bites, all appended with #StuVoice at the end. A single question would lead to a flood of responses and keep a discussion going for 20 minutes, often with chains going more than 10 tweets deep. I was immersed in a virtual world of people passionate about education.
When the hour (which passed by extremely quickly) was over, I had sent out nearly 50 tweets responding to peoples’ ideas and contributing my own questions to the chat. Not to mention that I had gained a few followers and numerous favorites and retweets.
For the next few months, I set aside Monday nights for #StuVoice chats no matter how much homework I had. It was the one time every week where I could discuss education seriously with a group of people, keeping multiple lines of conversation going at the same time. With the exception of a few people I know, nearly all my followers on Twitter have come from these chats.
However, I would often be left with a sense of emptiness after #StuVoice chats, since we were always discussing such great ideas, yet nothing was being done in real life. I felt uncomfortable bringing up StuVoice among people I knew, especially teachers, since education reform involves pointing out the problems with school, and we had already complained enough about school. I still wanted to start something at my school though.
Unsure of what to do next, I reached out to someone I met during a chat who started an organization at her school called Student’s Say and asked her how she got everything started. After a few back and forths, I felt like my biggest challenge was still informing people about StuVoice. I decided to write a blog post for the StuVoice website and share it on Facebook to see how it would be received.
A few scrapped ideas later, I drafted a brief article about motivation and sent it in to be edited. And for the first time since middle school, an adult actually looked over my writing and suggested a few improvements, collaborating over Google Docs. I have to admit, watching someone point out problems with my writing live was a little embarrassing, even if it was with good intentions. Nevertheless, I was extremely grateful for the feedback, and this was definitely one of the best parts about being published elsewhere.
There was a long gap between editing and publishing, but in the middle of the first week of school, I got a message from Jilly saying the post was finally up, brightening my day. At first, I was scared to read something I had written nearly a month ago on a site other than my blog, but I eventually went over and looked at it again. The post was pretty much as I remembered it, which was a relief, but now it was time to share it onto social media and have people judge me.
This wasn’t like my other posts where I would write about whatever ideas came to my head–this was meant to be a serious post, and I wasn’t sure how it’d be taken. Eventually, I got the courage to post the link onto my timeline with a description and immediately closed Facebook afterwards so I wouldn’t have to deal with any notifications. In general, people were more impressed with the fact that I was published than the actual StuVoice movement, but at least they weren’t bashing me down. I call that an accomplishment.
So what’s next? I’m not too sure I have an idea that’s brewing in my head, but I’m not ready to share that here yet. For now, please join the #StuVoice Twitter chats. They’re an inspiring experience that makes you think about education differently, and it’d be nice to have more people I know take part. Join us on Monday nights at 8:30 EST! (Have fun converting time zones.) Go #StuVoice!