With all the pressures that weigh on us as school leaders, it is especially important to always remember why we chose this work in the first place: to help students. Full of hope and promise, young people are the very reason we entered the profession. But for many students, the pandemic has diminished their hope and made them question their promise.
Mental health issues among young people are on the rise, and many students are exhibiting increasingly challenging behaviors in school. To support students and show them that we care, we need to engage them as decision makers in the life of the school, so that together adults and young people can foster a positive school climate and culture that make everyone feel safe, welcome, and loved.
To that end, this issue of Principal Leadership highlights the importance of student voice and the need for educators to prioritize it. In his cover article, “We Hear You!”, S. Kambar Khoshaba, the principal of Western Branch Middle School in Chesapeake, VA, offers concrete strategies for empowering students to improve school culture. By consulting students on programs and policies, and taking their advice, his article explores how he has successfully shown young people that he not only hears their voices but also values their insights.
We all have much to learn with and from students, which is why we feature several articles written by them. Their voices and perspectives are powerful in discussing the following topics: coping with the stress of the pandemic; the need for in-person learning; advocating for transgender and nonbinary students; and the importance of the arts in school. Their articles highlight the strength and resilience of so many of our students throughout the pandemic, and I’m proud to publish these thoughtful reflections here.
As an organization, NASSP takes very seriously its commitment to elevating the voices of the next generation with our student leadership programs: National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council. And now, with the launch of our first NHS Student Leadership Network, NHS students from around the country will be able to connect with each other to share ideas for improving mental health supports in schools.
Reading this month’s issue, I am reminded of how we must continue to center our work on student needs and truly listen to student voices. By showing young people that we do, in fact, hear and value what they have to say, they will know and trust that we are here for them … always.
Ronn K. Nozoe