Students with a voice
EAGLE POINT — It can be tough to keep students connected during a time when togetherness has been challenged by pandemic safety measures such as masks and social distancing.
Eagle Point School District communications supervisor Dean MacInnis launched a podcast this year to give students a chance to talk about their ever-changing world.
A 2002 Eagle Point graduate who began work with the district in July, MacInnis said he enjoys podcasts and felt like the platform could help forge stronger connections between students, teachers and parents.
Dubbed “The Student Voice,” the podcast debuted Aug. 12 and airs two to four times per month with district students of all ages, K-12. The first episode featured a Table Rock Elementary fourth-grader named Holly who talked about returning to in-person learning and how she had been impacted by remote learning during the pandemic.
MacInnis said his goal for the podcast was to provide a space for students to talk about whatever topics come to mind and to dialogue about everything from academics, sports and hobbies to social lives and worries about their families as they navigate a chaotic world.
“It’s just a way to be totally accepting to what students have to say. No ‘speaking through a filter.’ It’s 100% them and their feelings, so it’s really been an eye opener and helped me to become a better communicator. The content has been amazing. It’s helping parents realize what students are feeling, and it’s helped teachers become more relatable to students,” MacInnis said.
“We’re really trying to provide a platform for relatability and for shared perspectives. My only rule is ‘no swearing,’ but nothing else is off limits. The students love it so much we have literally had to cut it short so not to go over 25 or 30 minutes. Sometimes it feels like the kids could have gone on for hours. It’s about feeling accepted and having something in common. … That’s the primary goal.”
Senior Makenna Maldonado, who has been a guest on “The Student Voice,” said the podcast had been insightful in showing that students of all walks of life share commonalities.
“It’s made me think a lot about how COVID has not only set back a lot of athletes but all students and their parents. Keeping up grades has been harder for a lot of students. Even though we’re finally back at school, it doesn’t feel like we’re REALLY back. We’re just here to get it done, but there are so many things that feel different,” said the 18-year-old.
“Kids are stressed because a lot of the parents don’t have jobs, either because they didn’t do the vaccine, or their business closed. It’s hard to be successful at school when you’re worrying about what’s going on at home and with the rest of the world.”
Even a podcast about soccer, said Maldonado, reflected on bigger things.
“Soccer isn’t just soccer. It’s like a support group or a family. We talked a lot when we had our soccer podcast about how our team is more of a family. Our team will check in with each other every month, and we’ll sit down in a circle and ask what everyone is struggling with in life. We try to build each other’s spirits up,” she said.
“Athletes build a bond after all these years playing with each other. We realized it’s like that whether you’re talking about sports or theater or any students. What we all go through is kind of the same, and that connection is really important,” she added.
“The world has changed a lot. Even since I’ve been watching TikTok, I think it started off a lot of goofy singing and dancing, and now people are more real and they’re on there talking about what they’re going through and how much all our lives have changed.”
MacInnis said he’s hopeful the podcast will be a bright spot for those who need it.
“I think we’re all kind pre-prescribed to sort of view people in certain ways. When we start talking and sharing, we realize how similar our internal feelings are and that we’re all facing the same kinds of things,” he said.
“I think there are a lot of students who don’t feel heard right now, so I really just wanted to give kids a blank canvas to talk about whatever they want. People love to say how kids are adaptable and, yes, they are. Kids are resilient. But they’re also struggling right now. As are we all. We’ve seen more behavior problems this last year and a half, and it’s linked to the whirlwind ride they’ve been on for the last 18 months,” MacInnis said.
“This is just a place for kids to come, and if they want to just listen, they can just listen. And if they want to talk, we can do that, to. … Any student willing to talk, I’m willing to listen.”
“The Student Voice” podcast is available on Apple podcast or online at thestudentvoice.podbean.com/
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.