Raise Your Voice!

Producing for Raise Your Voice can be a great way to make friends, and share your ideas with our audience.

Raise Your Voice!, the Maine Education Project’s center for ideas and perspectives from students and teachers reaches a broad audience interested in education and we want your voice in the conversation.

We want to know what young people think about what they’re learning, how they’re learning, and what they’re doing with the skills they're gaining. And we want to know what it means to teach young people today, what challenges educators face, and how we as a society can ease the process and help improve the system.

For the second summer in a row we're inviting high school students to  join our Raise Your Voice Workshops, two-weeks of writing, making new friends, and creating multimedia. You'll gain valuable communication skills while developing work we'll feature on Raise Your Voice. These programs will take place at the University of Maine in Orono and at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland. They're free, and they'll run from July 23 to August 3, 8:30 a.m. to noon each day.

Space is limited so register early!

For more information about any of our programs, contact Dave Boardman, our education program coordinator, at dboardman@mainepublic.org, or call him at 207.423.6934. And if you're a teacher and interested in working Raise Your Voice into your curriculum, reach out. We'd love to talk about ways to connect your students with our audiences.

Part of The Maine Education Project and funded by The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Raise Your Voice! provides a forum for students and educators to share what it means to teach and learn in today's world.

Click the headline of each story to read the full text.

Finding a Voice Offers a Path for Improving School Safety

22 hours ago

It’s been about two months since the shooting in Parkland. As a student, I’ve been asked how I feel by well-meaning administrators and teachers, family friends, strangers and most often, my friends, as they try to hide how afraid they are now. In the lunchroom, we talk about bulletproof windows, our safety at marches, and lockdown procedure. I tried to find something, anything, to say to comfort my friends.  But I didn’t believe any reassurances myself. I tried to write something for Raise Your Voice. But I was too afraid. I couldn’t process what had happened. Whatever I said felt like it didn’t do justice to the gravity of 17 people, and a generation impacted. 

I had the privilege of being able to avoid thinking about what happened. But that’s exactly what it is, a privilege. Not everyone has it. There are kids who were at Parkland or any one of the other school shootings in our country. There are kids who have to fear gun violence in their communities or from the police, a status disproportionately affected by socioeconomic standing and racial tensions. 

We know how it feels to huddle on the floor and fight against wondering what’s outside. School shootings are real for us, in a way they weren’t for our parents or grandparents when they were in school. This is a shared experience of our generation. My school had an unscheduled lockdown very recently following the shooting. We’ve had drills and mistakes before. This was a false alarm. But it was different. Everyone in that room was completely silent. I can’t forget crouching there in the dark, and knowing this was how it felt. This is how it starts. 

Student-Centered Means Students Need to Be Heard

Apr 16, 2018

High school: "You failed.”

Going to bed at 1:00 am, waking up at 6:00 a.m. The test sits on our desk, and our minds go blank. Four or more hours making flash cards, looking at our notes, memorizing it all just for our minds to shut off. The bell rings and we look down to only see a couple questions answered. 

The next day we go to class and our teacher sits us down to talk. They’re disappointed: “Why didn’t you study? You failed the test. I thought you were better than this.” 

Over and over again we think of the word "failure," but never did our teacher ask how many hours we studied. They never listen when we say, “I really did study. My mind just goes blank when I look at my test.” They only seem to show interest in the way we learn when the grade is above average. 

Video: Want to Keep Youth in Maine? Try Building the Arts

Apr 14, 2018

How does a community retain its younger population and engage them in its future? The central Maine city of Waterville is one place where nonprofits, local leaders, and educators are working to help young people build a path to their future through the arts.

We’re three Mid-Maine Technical Center students enrolled in the Mass Media Communications program, and we took a look at this issue for a documentary we produced for the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs as part of their Making It Work series.

School is All About Looking for the Teachable Moments

Apr 9, 2018

As many know, life is full of constant twists and turns, ups and downs, and always has something to throw our way. Like the theme of a story, people are constantly learning lessons about life.

Within the school environment students are living and learning in their own ways, taking away something that will most likely last forever. A student may learn that friendships will come and go, or that arguing may not be worth it in the long run and keeping their mouth shut is the better path to take. Whatever it may be, students are constantly seeing situations that bring out teachable moments in any ordinary school day. 

Breanna Beaulieu, a sophomore from Fort Kent Community High School, has learned over the years  to be a leader and not a follower.

She says, “There’s a lot of cliques and groups, some being good, but most not quite. Some kids feel the need to be popular, and they feel like they have to hang out with the “cool” people not always making the right decisions. Being in these groups leaves people like me to feel like we’re pressured into changing ourselves, instead of embracing our own individual selves.” Bre says that people need to be the leader of their own way and not follow the ways of other people. Her message would be to follow your own path, lead the way, and don’t follow the crowd. 

Trophies for All Won’t Make Everyone a Winner

Mar 26, 2018

Writer Ashley Merryman’s article, "Losing is Good for You," published by The New York Times in 2013, challenged a popular trend. She argues against giving out trophies to children who participate in sports, and questions whether it is a good idea to give everyone on the team a trophy regardless of their accomplishments or athletic ability.

It’s a common practice, and in her article she mentions the American Youth Soccer Organization in Southern California, a group that gave trophies to every player just for being a member of the team. Merryman points out that children respond well when they are praised for their accomplishments, and will try harder; but on the other hand, those who know they will be rewarded regardless of their effort do not learn problem solving skills. 

Merryman adds that those who struggle will not try harder because they know they will be rewarded anyway, and those who do well may feel cheated that they are not getting special recognition. She believes that the long-term effects are harmful because children will grow up thinking that they just have to show up and not put in any effort. Her conclusion is, “Our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed.” 

Youth Mobilization Could Carve a United Front in Politics

Mar 19, 2018

Maine is a swing state; this means I live in a “swing” city and go to a “swing” school. My classmates come from rural and urban areas, and the sociopolitical views held and expressed range widely on every spectrum. This is a trait I believe necessary for the continuation of human social evolution. Like the necessity of biodiversity and mutations in science, differing opinions, philosophies, and ways of thinking are the driving force of our progression as a society and race.

However, when it comes to expressing our views, the tendencies we have tend to follow two trends: either points of views go unheard as conversations are hindered, or discussions lean more towards arguments with two iron-willed sides. These are both issues that threaten to obstruct any potential for meaningful conversations that are necessary for our growth and seem to create a toxic and divisive atmosphere for youth.

What a Teacher Knows Keeps Children Learning

Mar 14, 2018

In my desk drawer there are snacks. There are over 250 books on my shelves, and wooden letters on the windowsill that are supposed to say “READ” and “TEACH” but often say “THE CAT,” “KITTEN,” or if someone is feeling really snarky, “CHEAT.”

I coined ‘High Five Friday’ in November after, at the bell one Friday morning, a student came to my desk and asked for “one good one” to take with her before she left. Sometimes their hands and arms are so tangled around books and binders I might get an elbow, a foot, or yes, at times a forehead -- but everyone gets a high five from me -- a hand to guide them through the weekend. 

America Needs a Change to End Mass Killings

Mar 11, 2018

I can confidently say that, whether you stand with the left, right, both, or neither, we need a change in this country, and we need to not let school shootings and people dying become the norm from here on out.

Though I can see the argument from each side of the dispute, I believe we need firm gun control and much more in-depth mental health and background checks. At the same time, I believe people do have a place to their 2nd Amendment rights, and that just taking guns away completely would abolish part of the idea of what freedom is in America.

Unfortunately in this subject, there is no real right or wrong answer. There’re people who have their own beliefs, and that’s just a part of human nature. Except now, people’s lives are being lost because of faulty systems and loose laws, causing loopholes for someone to get a firearm when they lack the real mental capabilities to properly use it. In my opinion, no one in any country has a need for an AR-15, or any gun that nears having the same semi-automatic to automatic capabilities of one.

Understand, I am always trying to figure out why people care so much about their guns.

I think back to an evening in a rural Pennsylvania college town, our AirBnb scattered with take-out Chinese that tasted like nothing except MSG. My friend’s dad had a fear of silence in the house; the news was always on or he was always talking or both.

When he would wake up at 5 a.m., we’d hear CNN blaring through the thin doors, the same morning announcers’ privilege-driven voices repeating the same two words over again: Parkland Shooting.

Students Can't End School Shootings Without Help

Mar 6, 2018

There have been enough school shootings in America to understand there is a gun violence issue in this country. We’ve all heard the stories and seen the headlines. School shootings have taken over the media. How many tragedies have to happen before a lesson is learned and changes are made? School is supposed to be a safe and positive learning environment. 

Lately there has been a growing eruption of conversation around gun control. I was having a conversation with my teacher after the Parkland shooting and she asked me “What are some things we can do as a community to prevent school shootings before they happen?” That was when I realized the answer is not something that can be defined by our community alone.

Every school has steps to take in order to be the most positive and safe institution as possible for students to learn and grow. Although a good community is the first step in ending school violence, without proper gun control the problem would still persist. 

What Do We Learn From The Consequences of Failure?

Mar 6, 2018

I asked a handful of people on the street to answer a quick question: “Can discomfort and failure be used as learning tools?” Generally their answer was yes, and focused heavily on failure; discomfort was merely its side effect. This got me thinking about a few things: Do most people know that failure is a positive thing? If so, why is it still so hard as a society, and as an individual, to accept failure?

Is discomfort giving us a negative outlook on failure? I’m conflicted about this assumption, but I think others are too. Discomfort, being an unpleasant emotion, is hard to handle when it arises. But if we were to fail without it, would we have the incentive to learn from what we did wrong?

Personally, my recovery and growth that stems from failure is because of my desire to not fail like that again. And even though I know that we need to fail, I still don’t want to. I want to avoid those negative emotions. What if we were to embrace discomfort, similar to how we should be embracing failure? If it were to become an expected tool to help identify flaws, would that remedy that initial rejection of failure? Even if it did fix the failure dilemma, how do we embrace discomfort, how are we to be “comfortable” with discomfort?

Don't Sacrifice Creativity, Learning, for Grades

Mar 2, 2018

High school; the golden years, the time of our lives, the glory days. These all describe high school as the best years of our lives. For 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, we inhabit school buildings and attempt to follow the curriculum of math, science, English and history all while attempting to learn things more important to our growing selves.

Endless nights are spent with noses buried in books just trying to reach Friday night, when a football or basketball game will be spent with friends as a stress reliever. However, is this cycle of stress and relief of memorizing and tests during the week minimizing creativity and life during the weekends? Is the want for perfection a self-given goal or is it the pressure of our parents and teachers that drives us? What does high school really teach our youth?

For a few very special Maine elementary school teachers, this is a favorite one-liner, our gentle but pointed humor, our erstwhile collective motto, and sometimes our vehement protest:

“This is not Old Sturbridge Village!”

The one-room school teachers of Maine will smile knowingly — and roll their eyes a little — if they happen to read this. Nothing against Old Sturbridge Village, of course, but the tiny public elementary schools serving the children of Monhegan, Isle au Haut, Frenchboro, the Cranberries, Cliff Island and Matinicus are not historical reenactments, museum displays, or creative anachronisms.

Education has become the basis of all revolutions and evolutions of both the national and global community. With the human disruption of our ecosystems and earth’s cyclic pattern, education needs to take a central role in preparing for and formulating our future.

Every generation needs to take a prominent role in political and social action against measures that can be detrimental to our planet. In a state that so heavily relies on its pristine ecosystems, Maine needs to take a role in educating its residents on how to best prevent disruptions to its ecosystems and a national role in fighting for legislation that restricts these disruptions and raises awareness on the effects of these disruptions. For states like Maine, this is not only a moral argument, but an economic necessity. 

Living in Maine, I am constantly surrounded by the natural beauty this state provides. In the summers, lakes and beaches fill with people swimming, while mountains and hills are trekked. The environments we inhabit become our classrooms; field trips have taken me all over, from the Kenduskeag to an island off Bar Harbor, and the environment has been brought inside as I grew monarch butterflies in kindergarten and identified types of algae just this year. 

In Maine, it is truly difficult to grow up without an appreciation for the environment around you. At the same time, it is impossible to say that the effects of human pollution are invisible in this state. The Gulf of Maine has one of the most rapidly warming coasts.  Our coast has been prone to red tides, or algal blooms, and our gulf is most literally browning

That F Will Make You Smarter!

Jan 25, 2018

Since an early age my parents have told me that any grade I get on a test, a project, or a report card is not reflective of my intelligence. They know it will only hold me back and confine my identity to whether or not I can demonstrate my knowledge in a medium that so often devalues the importance of being a learner before a test taker.

I had translated this academic mentality into thinking tests could never be of value to my personal pool of knowledge, and grades could only be useful for the education system to “put me in my place.” That conclusion allowed me to become more aware of our construct of education, thus giving me the desire to be involved in its reformation. 

But I was wrong. There will always be a need to track understanding and the expansion and evaluation of that understanding. So tests will always have value; they are the ability to quantify a piece of academic growth. But it’s not the tests that were my issue, it’s how we treat the answers. How are we to grow when we aren’t allowed to be wrong without penalty? 

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