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  • Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad

Student Voice: Finding the courage to tell your story

At one time or another, we have all faced an experience that forced us to choose to conform to expectations or to challenge them head-on. Maybe it was finding your niche in school, being presented with a restrictive set of rules, or being asked to abide by social and cultural norms. The pressure to conform can hinder one’s ability to speak up, speak out, take risks or lead change.

As educators, we inadvertently create and reinforce environmental conditions when we reward the “one right answer” or standardize processes to the exclusion of individuality. By rewarding opinions most accepted by the masses, we communicate that we don’t want thoughtful, dissenting voices.

This must change! The goal of education is to help our students be more creative and innovative, think more critically, communicate effectively to inspire change, and collaborate to make an impact. So how can we do this in a way that allows everyone’s perspective to be represented?

Everyone has beliefs, feelings and experiences, but not everyone creates a medium through which to share them. Think back to a time when your own thinking evolved or when you decided to change your mind. What factors helped push you forward? Were you inspired by someone else’s story or voice? Creating art out of stories is a canvas for driving change.

There are billions of videos and films in the world. But every voice is unique. Our students each have something to say and the world needs to hear it. Our job is to make that possible.

That’s why I joined the board for the Student Voice Foundation and I hope teachers will join me by encouraging their students to enter the Global Student Voice Film Festival. The main goal of the festival is to empower student voice and agency. This program gives students around the globe a chance to create and be heard. It is a platform on which they can share their unique perspectives with the world and embody the mindset that they don’t have to wait until they grow up to make a difference – their ideas can impact people now.

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