Student Agency?

This year in the interest of student agency, I opened my room to my students. They have access to all the cabinets and supplies. We have alternative and free-choice seating. Students make their own schedules. We honor and support student-led action. Students build criteria for their learning and even for their play. We hold class meetings (ala Sudbury) every day to share problems and get solutions from peers.  

But even as I think of the wonderful things students are doing and the amazing conversations we have had, I know that it is nowhere near enough. The furniture, cabinets and supplies are in the places I chose them to be, and I can always take the right away (and have) if they aren’t respecting the space. Their schedules follow my timeline and they must work on things I have chosen (“but they can pick the order they do things!”). They build criteria for summative assessments my colleagues and I have created. We hold class meetings and they frequently look to me to call on them so they can share their thoughts.

Is this student agency? Or a version of it? How do I balance the requirements of my district and the interests of my students? How do I convince administrators, colleagues, and parents that we should give students the chance to follow their interests and have true agency? How do I support learners in their journey without taking their choice away? Most importantly, do I have the courage to do what I think is right and rebel against this system?

What are ways you have tried to honor student voice and conquer the doubt this journey creates?

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