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How will you make the world a better place?

Close friends and long time readers of this blog will know that Student Voice and Student Leadership is a passion of mine.

Most schools have some form of student body; be it a student representative council, student leadership council, a junior school council, a student congress, student voice – the names for these organizations are varied, but ultimately, there is a group that represents student within the school.

But… Why is such a having a student council important ? And what sort of things should we be working on ? I mean, we raise money and stuff, but how can we move to that next level ?

By having a student council within your school, you can draw upon their knowledge which will ultimately lead to better decision making.

At a global level, this is recognised through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with Article 12 stating that a child should be given an opportunity to express their viewpoint. That age should not be a barrier in their participation in matters they have a degree of understanding and comprehension over.

But more locally….. Often there are things that students know about the school that teachers and parents just are unaware of. By involving all stakeholders, it ensures that all viewpoints are heard and in turn leads to more informed decision making.

By involving students in how decisions are made, it provides them an understanding and point of reference when wanting to be active citizens beyond the school context. Research also suggests that schools who involve students in decision making, will in turn, have improvements in student learning.

By having a student council, you will improve relationships and connections between staff, students and the broader community

For me though, the reasons behind having a student council are somewhat more personal. I have been involved in student leadership since I was in Grade 5 in 1993. I continued to be involved in student council throughout my time and secondary school and once commencing my teaching career, I quickly took on the role of SRC Teacher Advisor.

Had it not have been for some great teachers who saw student councils as something important; who gave their time freely to support what we were doing; who coached, mentored and guided me through the process,  I would not be the person I am today.

Images from author’s collection.

It is my hope that I can provide the same opportunities for my students. That I can pay forward the experiences and the lessons I have learned.

The road to a Victorian Junior School Council

It is with this in mind that one project I would love to establish would be a  state wide Junior School Council for primary school students.

Within my role with the Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisers Inc. I volunteer as a supporter with the Victorian Student Representative Council. I am excited that they are considering a primary school networking event in 2015 to explore the appetite from schools and the possibility of such an organisation existing.

 

A colleague and friend of mine recently said that “too often in life we place our own obstacles in the way of our dreams, be it excuses, time, etc…I say to you, no more!  Take that great idea, challenge, relationship, learning that you should do and “just do it”.  The world needs dreamers and doers and the best is the combination of both.” 

I look forward to being part of the team that turns this dream of mine into a reality. I hope to share the journey of this exciting adventure with you through my blog.

Image generated author.

Image generated by author.

This post is the second in a series as part of the #youredustory challenge. For more information visit their website.

Dealing with the bad apples

Being a member of a Student Representative Council (SRC) is not always about wearing a badge and missing out on classes. For some, the initial appeal wears off when they soon realise the volume of time and level of commitment required to fulfil the role effectively. This can lead to SRC members backing away their responsibilities, dragging down the SRC or choosing to opt out of the SRC all together. So, what can be done to prevent these situations from
occurring? How do you respond to situations where the  bad apples are starting to spoil the rest of the bunch?

PREVENTION:

Having students aware of the accountability involved prior to taking on a role can be one way of preventing burn out or issues during the year. Developing clear job descriptions that state the tasks involved and the time required each week could be one way of informing students about the commitment required. Having past SRC members who have filled those positions speak to potential candidates can also help in communicating the degree of involvement and work required.

During the year, it is useful to complete an audit of your SRC. The VicSRC resource kit, “REPRESENT!” features a section features an audit tool (1.7 An effective SRC) to enable you and the SRC members to obtain feedback about how the SRC is operating. Being aware of how others perceive the organisation is a useful exercise and will provide with you data to help discuss the operations of the SRC with its members and school administration.

 After a mid-year review of the SRC, the data showed that SRC members where frustrated with giving up large amounts of their lunchtime for meetings and other commitments. As the teacher advisor, I raised this with school administration and we agreed to rotate meetings fortnightly between lunchtime and class time. The SRC also agreed that they would allocate a portion of their budget to provide catering at some of the lunchtime SRC meetings.

IS IT AN SRC ISSUE OR A SCHOOL ISSUE ?

As the SRC Teacher Advisor, you will no doubt encounter an experience with a member of staff who will tell you about the inappropriate behaviour of a student who is a member of the SRC.

The Year 9 Co-ordinator approached me about Damien’s behaviour in a class that was covered by a CRT. The co-ordinator was called to the class after rude and disruptive behaviour by Damien and other students. The other students were reprimanded by way of after-school detention, however, as Damien was an SRC Member, he was told the matter would need to be taken further. The co-ordinator was calling for Damien to be removed from his position on the SRC.

Does inappropriate school behaviour warrant sanctions imposed by the SRC? Should this be in addition to any consequence imposed by the school?  Having a clear policy or SRC constitution that is understood by year level co-ordinators and school leadership that states how such situations are to be managed can assist greatly. I have heard of SRC’s threatening to withdraw support from wider school events or stage class walkouts by the student body when such processes have not been followed. Whilst the school may choose to impose sanctions based on the student code of conduct, if the sanctions were to impact on the student’s involvement in the SRC, at a minimum, the SRC Teacher Advisor as advocate for the SRC should be present at all discussions.

DO YOU INVOLVE THE SRC WHEN DEALING WITH THE ACTIONS OF AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER ?

Depending on the matter, it can be useful to involve SRC members in managing disciplinary matters. By doing so, you are demonstrating that their involvement in decision making isn’t tokenistic and limited to fundraising and where the new bins should be placed in the yard.

Carl was a Grade 3 member of the SRC. He always arrived late to meetings, failed to complete tasks he agreed to undertake and disrupted meetings by making inappropriate noises and offing comments unrelated to what was being discussed. The school captains who chaired the meetings raised their concerns with me. We discussed strategies they could used during the meeting to manage Carl’s behaviour. The school captains also met with Carl to discuss his behaviour. The conversation between the school captains and Carl was far more powerful as it was coming from an equal level rather than a top-down approach.

The Meetings Resource Kit developed by Second Strike contains further information and advice about responding to certain behaviours during meetings.

Alternatively, having SRC members deal with disciplinary matters against students may impact negatively on their relationships with other students and school staff so you may wish to remove them from the processes.

The Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisers has recently uploaded some new resources to the MEMBERS ONLY resources section of our website. Resources on offer include:

  • Sample Job Descriptions
  • Sample Constitutions & Policies containing Codes of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures
  • Formal Warning Letters
  • Sample SRC Reports for students

 To access these resources or to become a VISTA member, visit us at http://srcteachers.ning.com

* Whilst the stories are based on real experiences, the names contained within the article have been changed.

Have you had to deal with negative behaviour from an SRC Member ?
How have you handled the situation ?
Do you have any additional suggestions or advice ?