My Voice My Community
"This Is How I Envisioned Teaching"

Bringing Student Voice to the Front of the Class

Jennie Markowicz’s students at D. Newlin Fell School were abuzz with excitement when they returned from their community walk. Dogs off of their leashes, litter, community gardens, and graffiti were just some of the things the students saw as they walked around their South Philadelphia neighborhood. The 4th graders even asked people they met on the street what they thought the positives and negatives of the community were.

Upon their return to class, Jennie gathered the students for a group discussion. “One of the biggest insights that was brought out was when a few students asked why there were so many adults and seemingly school-age children walking around in the middle of the day. They wondered, ‘Shouldn’t they be at work or in school?’”

This question led one of the students to share that her mother is currently unemployed and spends her day looking for jobs. Other students then began to talk about how unemployment has affected their lives as well.

“I can talk all day about these issues, but I want them to talk about them… it’s their voice that matters,” Jennie says. The issue of unemployment prompted such discussion among the students that it went up on their Issue Parking Lot poster as a serious one to consider for their year long project.

Over the years, Jennie has seen first hand how Need in Deed impacts students … and has heard how much they want to continue the experience. Both 3rd grade teachers at Fell are members of NID’s Teacher Network and have been doing projects with their students for several years.

“It’s all they talk about! It’s what they remember about their 3rd grade year and I want to give that to them in 4th grade as well,” Jennie says.

As for doing a project for the first time herself she says, “It’s better than I expected. It’s the one time during the week where I say, ‘This is how I envisioned teaching.’”

Need in Deed encourages our Network members to allow their student’s voices to shine through, even when the topics they bring up are difficult ones. It’s too soon to say what topic Jennie’s students will choose this year, but with a teacher who is willing and able to talk about tough issues, it’s sure to be a meaningful project.

Jennie Markowitz won a Need in Deed My Voice Web Award this month.