Creating the future of Maine in our schools.

“Before, I probably wasn’t very hopeful, I didn’t see any way that I could make be part of a change or be part of an impact in our school community. There wasn’t really anybody I felt I could talk to you that would like, listen to me, or would respect my ideas, I guess. So it’s very kind of like, well, this is the way it is, you just have to kind of get through it. And I feel like with this program being in place with me joining, I felt a lot more hopeful about the future of our school, and knowing how I can make a change and in what ways I can impact people. And then I have a voice in the school community has been great.”

Southern Maine High School student participant in We Listen.

We Listen: Data-informed Civic Leadership

First, the facts. Students who feel seen, heard, and understood are more likely to stay in school. Youth who contribute meaningfully to their school community feel they matter. And youth who feel they can make a difference, have hope for their future. Schools that work collaboratively with high school youth set their students on a path to productive civic engagement. Communities that value each member’s perspectives and wellbeing are places where youth want to invest themselves. We all flourish when we work with others to make the world a better place.

Using a flexible and iterative curriculum connected to Maine Learning Results, We Listen provides the support schools need to ensure their students know they matter and have the confidence and the skills to contribute productively to their communities. High schools form a We Listen Team of up to 12 student participants who engage in participatory action research using surveys, focus group conversations, and empathy interviews to learn about their peers’ experiences, as well as what their teachers’ goals and obstacles to success are. Then they design and collaborate with adults on implementation of effective, meaningful solutions. We provide the teaching, the tools, and the technology. You provide the students, an advisor (often the principal), and a dedicated period of time during the week.

Students learn to prioritize issues of concern; consider their own perspectives alongside those of peers and adults; understand and use policy development principles in the school context; and leverage technology to analyze quantitative and qualitative data to support their own and others’ understanding of the issues and their potential solutions. Students strengthen agency, hopefulness, and mattering as foundations for academic and life success. 

Educators and principals learn too to ensure We Listen is integrated appropriately into the structures, processes, and culture of each school over three years and continues with gradually less direct support from The Source School. Team advisors also have the opportunity to connect with We Listen team advisors from other schools.

Each school is unique, and each implementation of We Listen is unique. We work together with each school to develop a custom implementation plan, and we partner with school leaders to ensure solid preparation for project success — from inception to analysis to action steps for adult-youth collaborative response to the learnings. Students, advisors, and building leaders are supported and empowered throughout the entire program.

Strategic Listening + Planning

We work with school boards and district leaders to create deeper community connections to — and investments in — their schools.  Creating a strategic plan that prioritizes those connections begins with listening. We offer comprehensive focus group research that leads to an inclusive, equitable, and informed strategic planning process, and when desired, we lead teams through the planning process itself. 

Educators, parents, community members, employers, and youth participate in small, in-person or virtual focus groups lasting 75 to 90 minutes. Our conversation protocol and trained facilitators offer participants the opportunity to connect with each other in new ways, share their stories, and consider the future of your community and the role school has in creating that future — with no need for them to give up a day or you to organize a large group full day weekend event.

We analyze the conversations with the help of the greater community using artificial intelligence-aided technology created at MIT’s Center for Constructive Communication. And high school youth can play an integral role, working with us to define research questions, facilitate focus groups, guide analysis, and present findings. The outcome is more than a plan; it is a shared understanding of history and context, needs and dreams and how your schools can evolve to create the future your community envisions.

For districts wanting support in using the listening report to create a strategic plan, we offer a comprehensive experience for your team to create a plan focused on what’s working well and where energy and need intersect.

Youth + Adult Collaborative Circles

Collaborative circles are designed to nurture trusting relationships between adults and youth in schools of all types. School staff, teachers, administrators, and volunteers can make the difference in a student’s life, the difference between a youth feeling they matter and feeling invisible. But how do you do that? How do adults cultivate the space for relationships to grow when the school day is so hectic? 

Using our Levels of Listening tools, collaborative circles bring a group of six to eight together for 40 to 90 minutes to get to know each other better through specially designed conversations and activities. Our trained facilitators provide the structure and content for participants to relax and enjoy the process of developing deeper connections that leave adults and youth feeling renewed, and educators leave with tools to use the format in their classroom. This is a great experience for student leadership teams, clubs, students in need of warmer holding, or even whole grades. Circles can be held during class time, after school, or in a retreat format.

Teacher and Principal Coaching

Making deeper connections between our intentions for ourselves and our professional work can lead to greater satisfaction in our work lives as well as more impactful classrooms. Building relationships through content and pedagogy can lead to more engaged students who feel a true human connection to their teachers; and for administrators, creating clear, socially hygenic, and supportive relationships with staff creates an atmosphere where all can thrive and best meet the emerging needs of students. With these in place, classrooms and schools can become transformative for adults and students alike. We support educators throughout Maine in both classroom and administrative roles, serving children and adults from infants through higher education. 

We also offer coaching to building and teacher leaders who want to create leadership opportunities for youth in their schools. From initial thought partnership to planning and implementation phases, we can support you in your own transformation to an open and inclusive leader.