This week the Institute is pleased to have a guest blogger. In this post Mark Bichler, a Business Education Teacher at Port Washington High School, reflects on last week’s Youth Summit, hosted by the Institute.

This past week’s Youth Summit at Carroll University turned out to be an eye-opening experience for everyone in the room that morning. There were over one hundred students from many school districts throughout CESA 1. It was amazing to see the different personalities, learning styles, and student interests all gathered in a room with one common focus: how can we make education work best for everyone. The day worked as sort of a Focus Group Theme. I believe the Institute can use the results to make something happen.

To someone in the classroom, this is something I have always focused on in my own room, and I am sure that many educators have done the same in their own classroom. The events of the Youth Summit were an opportunity to take this “individual” movement into a “movement of the masses” – one that might have more success when it is something that can be seen as successful in many districts. Best of all, the reactions of the day at the Summit were those of the true experts: The Students! We have opportunities for districts starting down the path of innovation to use as a model in our creations. I encourage all districts to contact those presenting at the Youth Summit!

It was wonderful to see the students engaged in several activities throughout the day, but even more powerful were the questions and concrete ideas that they were able to generate for the Institute. The panel presentation from several students/districts gave my students an opportunity to see how “real schools” are doing things differently to meet the needs of students at multiple levels. The next challenge is to take the videos, presentations, and work from the summit and make it work for districts around Southeast Wisconsin. I know that several of my students were interviewed, videotaped, etc. and the common theme that came back to us was that people actually wanted their input to make positive change. It’s time to act as districts, let’s revitalize education before someone does it for us.

From a classroom teacher’s perspective, there are definitely challenges that lie ahead of us no doubt. I believe we are on the right path in involving the students in the say of how their education can work best for them. We need to continue to keep these eager students engaged and involved. As educators we have virtually unlimited resources at our finger tips. Let’s not forget to use one valuable resource – Today’s Voice – Students!

Mark Bichler
Port Washington High School