A few weeks ago, Jeff Bradbury asked me if I wanted to participate in a student conference in NYC. With a lot going on in my own life right now (more to come in about two weeks), I was a bit hesitant; being in Manhattan by 6:30 AM on a Saturday, driving home after a 12 hour day, and another conference. Yes, I said it… just another conference. And yes, I was dead wrong. This wasn’t just another conference.
The conference was held at the Microsoft Building, with sponsorship coming from Dell. The conference floor was amazing; a DJ, about 200 computers / tablets to use, visual story tellers, and an array of media interaction. The event was hosted by Monique Coleman of the High School Musical fame (who is doing all kinds of amazing things all over the world… google “gimme mo”) and featured a keynote by Andrew Jenks (the young adult who has a show on MTV about real world issues, not uber-dramatic teen pregnancy or fighting at the shore).
The highlight? Having the chance to sit in on or interact with panels led by national speakers, educators, and journalists. Let it be known… this conference was flooded with the rainmakers in education; Randi Weingarten, Nick Goyal, Eric Shenninger, Chris Lehman, Barry Scheckenel, Angela Meiers, Snow White (yes, her real name is Snow White – her parents, according to her, had a real sense of humor), and scads of others.
The most important attendees: students of all ages. Students shared a myriad of experiences on how they are taking control of their education, how they are joining all students together, and how they plan to change the world. Jilly from MO – who started an entire grassroots campaign via FaceBook & Tiwtter to allow an open campus for lunches with upperclassman; Jack from CA, who brought students together to have the right to read what they want to read in school, and eleven year old Mike from NY – who has campaigned to get a student council meeting once a week with his Principal.
There’s much to take away from this – – most importantly, that students have a voice and it should not be ignored. Students are not just numbers – they are people like all of us, and deserve the best opportunities we can offer. It was an excellent ‘grounder’ for me – I left reminded of why I’m here as a school leader. I’m here for them.
So yea, students, you were heard. And you will continue to be. You have a voice.