#DBC50Summer 45/50: Let Them Speak!

At the end of (almost) every year, I had my students complete a survey. I still have the student surveys from my first year that share what they liked most and what they wanted to see changed. These were so powerful to me because my fifth graders had more insight than I ever imagined. In the following years, my fifth graders would write letters to the upcoming fifth graders. If students allowed me to, I would read their letters and was always blown away by the advice they would give my future students. The things that I had hoped they would walk away with, they usually did. And then some. When I transitioned to the media center, I asked my 3rd-5th grade students in a survey (and my K-2 students in open conversation) about their time in the media center. Using these results, I would begin planning for the next year.

The problem was that I wasn’t asking soon enough and often enough. I know that now. Immediately after reading this book for the first time, I asked my middle school students to take a survey called “Talk to Me” (if you aren’t sure why this is ironic, stick around after #DBC50Summer is over… the irony is definitely there) For the first time ever, I am sharing some of the results of this survey.

The book that inspired the survey to ask the “hard questions” is Let Them Speak! by Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter (the amazing folks who brought us Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank)! I’ll wait while you go get your own copy real quick. You’re going to want it.

All checked out? Ready to move on?

I asked students to share the good, bad, and ugly about their middle school experience. My only stipulation was that they did not use this as a platform to destroy another teacher, to talk negatively about personality conflicts, etc. I made it amply clear that this is not permission to bash another teacher to me. I don’t like when teachers talk about one another, especially not in front of students, so I didn’t want this to become a sounding board for teacher “dissing”. What I got was raw, open, amazingly honest responses from my students that I value more than ever before.

Below are some of the answers I received from my students.

What would you want to talk about in media this year that we didn’t talk about? *I will use these to create next year’s lessons*

  • Definitely memes. We need more of those, they didn’t get their time to shine.
  • I would like you to talk about bullying and its consequences whether it be digital or not
  • Developing/creating suspense within a story.
  • Bullying/discrimination or about other cultures and learn about them
  • Something about all of the struggles that the world faced this year, I think we should talk about it and not ignore it.

What do you want changed about your media space?

  • I like the Media Centers look but more Art and Vibrant colors on the wall could be really cool
  • I don’t think we need any change in our environment currently we have a very comfortable and creative learning environment.
  • I’d like for it to be a little more “free”/”open” to us more than just once a month. Going once a month is fine, but I think that there should be more opportunities to use resources in the media center than just once a month.
  • I would like more space to read at

Is there anything you want to share about anything related to media?

  • I love Mrs. Ray, she’s super energetic and loves us and what she does.
  • I just love that class. It makes me happy when we get to go
  • One thing i like about this class is that the teacher is enthusiastic and happy about teaching with a good attitude.
  • I don’t think we should have to have to check out a fiction and nonfiction book because what if someone wanted two fiction or nonfiction books.
  • You can be a little to enthusiastic just tone it down a notch or 40 (sorry Mrs.Ray)
  • Maybe not think so much about what you think we might like if that makes sense.

What would you like to see changed at your school?

  • I’d like to see the students actually having a voice in what goes on
  • More one on one times with teachers.
  • I would like for the people to start treating homophobic terms like racist terms.
  • Students can have more say in decisions
  • To have a cheer team
  • i would like to see more kids becoming a group and being friends , kids coming together against bullying


Here are tweets of the information as I extrapolated the data last year.
These answers were literally copied and pasted. So now what? What do we do with this?
We listen. We try to get better. We ask our students if we got better. We don’t wait until the end of the year to ask again. We ask early and we ask often.
This year it is my goal to be better, more diligent and purposeful about asking the tough questions. I will be on their turf. What I love about our media center is that it is their space. Our media center is their turf. I am able to have honest conversations in this space. They share things with me that they may not share elsewhere. That is a privilege and a huge responsibility. They are entrusting me with the information to make their experience better. I hope I live up to that expectation for them.
This book is a game-changer. You can feel Rebecca and Rick’s passion for student voice poured into every word they say. Their Let Them Speak! project is so powerful and hearing the words from the students gets me every time. If we just ask students, they will likely answer. If you haven’t developed a relationship with them that is strong enough to promote and accept their truth, have them complete an anonymous survey.
Want to know what it looks like when you ask students their opinions and they know you’re going to take it seriously?

Our students are incredible perceptive. They know things and have a depth of knowledge we’ve not even tapped into that has nothing to do with the DOK that we’re accustomed to considering. Ask them. Just ask them. See what happens.

I cannot possibly share how important it is to read this book. My students are my number ONE priority. Aren’t they yours? Ask them their opinions. Talk with them. Get on their turf. Build the relationships that allows these authentic conversations about controversial, difficult topics. You won’t be disappointed. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Let Them Speak!

“Humans should come before numbers.”

“If we take the time to value adult voice and adult stories, we must take the time to mine for student voice and student stories. Not only is it fair, but it is what is right!”

“Be brave enough to ask, open enough to listen, and wise enough to act when student voice is activated.”

“Our students listen when we speak and something they might overhear us saying can have a lasting impact on them. Our words can hurt their feelings.”

“It’s never too late to activate student voice at any stage of a process in order to improve anything that we do.”

I hope that it is evident that this post has a more somber feel than many of my other #DBC50Summer posts. I also hope that it is obvious why this particular post cuts out a lot of my typical sarcasm. This is important. It’s too important to cheapen with sarcasm. Our students need to be heard. Are you willing to listen?

I could go on and on about this book. I’m just going to say again that you need to buy it. Now. If you are a classroom teacher, administrator, superintendent, you should buy it. You should read it. Then you should start asking questions. On their turf. This is their education. Let’s hear them out. Well-done, Rebecca and Rick. Very, very well done.

Oh, and the implementation plan. Keep asking the questions. I will be asking the 6 questions from the book used in the Let Them Speak! project.

  • What don’t we, as educators, understand about you, the students at this school?
  • What is something that you wish we could do better?
  • What have we failed to recognize about you or your experiences as a student at our school?
  • Is there anything that upsets you about our school that we should fix, rethink, eliminate, or no longer ignore?
  • What do you value the most about your learning experiences at our school?
  • How do you feel the night before coming to school on a new day, after a weekend, or after a holiday or summer vacation?

For more, follow the hashtag #LetStudentsSpeak and connect with Rebecca and Rick on Twitter at @rebeccacoda and @rickjetter, respectively. I highly recommend checking out the Where Are The Pirates? section of the new Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website! This is an incredible place to find where each author is (including Rick and Rebecca) on social media and the web. Check out the Let Them Speak! website here! You can also access the flipgrid here and share about a time that you listened to your students and changed something in your practice. Thank you, Andrea Paulakovich, for allowing me to be a co-pilot in this wonderful idea of yours for a global collaboration space for all things DBC, Inc! Have you bought your copy of the book yet? You should. Here’s the link again! Go. Buy!

Only 5 books left in #DBC50Summer! This is so hard to believe and I’m really sad to see it end! (Thankfully, DBC, Inc isn’t done releasing books! I’ve got more coming – just have to figure out a new name for this journey!) Also… do you remember that secret I alluded to in the Summer Recap 4? It’s coming up in the next post. Book 46 is The Path to Serendipity by Allyson Apsey. Can’t wait to share my secret, and this book, with you next!

One thought on “#DBC50Summer 45/50: Let Them Speak!

  1. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 41-50 Recap | AliciaRay.com

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