Students as Writers: What We Can Learn

Throughout its 23 years, Horace has featured student voices in a variety of ways, but this is the first time we have produced a completely student-written issue. Now it exists; this collection of students’ descriptions of being active in the process of their own education is in your hands.

When we released the call for submissions to this issue, we had no real way of knowing what the response would be. This lack of control was both exciting and—I have to admit—a bit nerve-wracking. Usually, Horace is the result of collaborations between practitioners, family and community members, researchers, school leaders and me. This means that, as the editor, I don’t always write the content, but I work with people—usually adults—who have specific experiences to convey on the subject at hand. Each issue of Horace is an adventure in collaboration, with its own unique delights and challenges. The work fascinates me, and I am just starting to feel like I have some mastery of the process of creating an issue. (Of course, feeling mastery often is the phase before comprehending how very little one actually knows. But for now, I’ll enjoy whatever illusion of competence I can grasp.)

Even before the first deadline, students responded, and writing started to fill my email in-box. As I started to work with these students, exchanging drafts and comments, I realized that in their own particular ways, they were describing how they built relationships with adults at their schools that helped them become their best selves. These writers stepped into opportunities that they created for themselves in conjunction with schools committed to the realities of keeping students at the center of their work.

I am deeply grateful to all of the writers whose thoughtful words appear here. Thank you for your time and commitment to this process. All of you showed wisdom and focus, and the work you produced is a powerful testament to the requirement that students’ voices be an equal part of the work of creating and evolving schools. Each of you demonstrates the productive, positive cycle of influence that can happen when a school community takes its students seriously and its students take the school and their responsibilities as community members just as seriously.

Most of you write about the messiness of taking an active role in your own education and the life of your school. You write about what it’s like to have to deal with aspects of your schools that aren’t that great, and you write about having to deal with aspects of yourselves that you want to change. Thank you for your honesty and clear descriptions.

These fourteen writers will help teachers create more space for student leadership and participation in their schools and their communities. We hope that after reading these students’ words, educators and others find ways to do things differently. From my own experience, I can say that doing so may make adults feel a certain lack of control but the rewards are vastly worth it.

The editor of Horace since 2001, Jill Davidson is also the Publications Director for CES National. This is Jill’s twentieth edition of Horace.