Today, my students were highly productive and focused in class and we finished our lesson plan 20 minutes early. So, I gave them the time to start on their homework or work on other studies. As they did this, I picked up my iPad to catch up on the news and came across this Mind/Shift Article “20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education.” So, I decided I would ask my 9th graders (14-15 years old) their reaction to these statements. Here were their responses to each one:
1. I have to critically think in college, but your tests don’t teach me that.
Students seem uneven with the issue of testing – they felt that some teachers write tests that require them to think and analyze, others do not. They also responded that the grading was not always reflective of a focus on critical thought – sometimes teachers look at processes (e.g. a math teacher looking at how you worked out the problem) and others focuse on wrote material.
2. We learn in different ways at different rates.
Categorical YES on this one. They recognize this about themselves and are often concerned that their teachers do not. One told me that he felt his teachers often thought he was “stupid” because he didn’t learn well via traditional formats – wrote a “note to self,” use multiple formats.
3. I can’t learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
They really felt that this was a significant element to their learning experience – they often like to know that their teacher likes them and has a genuine interest in them.
4. Teaching by the book is not teaching. It’s just talking.
Another categorical YES here. I remember loathing teachers who followed the book rubric to the letter.
5. Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.
My students had an odd reaction to this. While they want to know that their teachers care about them, they also wanted the teacher teaching.
6. Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.
They didn’t really agree with this. Most felt that the role of teachers was to give them the opportunity to achieve success. I think that one of them at this point asked me with suspicion, while looking at me like I was crazy, whether or not I wrote these.
7. We don’t need more than teachers. We need life coaches.
They did not agree with this one at all.
8. The community should become more involved in schools.
They liked the idea that the community supported their school in all avenues. However, they didn’t feel that this was critical.
9. Even if you don’t want to be a teacher, you can offer a student an apprenticeship.
When I explained to them what an apprenticeship is, they actually got really excited about this. One said the the wanted to be a lawyer and would love to work the summer in a law office.
10. Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.
At first they agreed with this, but then they remembered that I force more new technology on them than they likely wanted. This response went more like “YE…uh…ahhh… maybe not from you Mrs. J-Lo.”
11. You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.
They categorically disagreed with this one.
12. Tell me something good that I’m doing so that I can keep growing in that.
They had some mixed responses to this one. One the one hand, they liked it – they appreciated having a teacher call or email their parents for a positive as the only time they seem to be in contact is for negative. However (as they are pretty honest about themselves), they said that sometime they need to be called on their bunk – they recognized that most teachers have their best interests at heart.
13. When you can feel like a family member it helps so much.
Another categorical disagree. They understand that they need responsible, stable adults in their lives who are not family.
14. We appreciate when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype.
They said yes and then proceeded to ask for my gamer tag… again (I again refused). Mine all have my iChat, Skype, and GChat contact info.
15. Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.
My school is independent so our classes are usually small. However, there are a few larger ones. They clearly preferred the smaller classrooms as they felt that too many students meant it was easy to be lost in the shuffle.
16. Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music.
My school has an amazing art program, so this was N/A for us. However, as a former public school student I categorically agree.
17. Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.
They really liked this idea…. a lot. I’ll admit that it made me nervous – but perhaps I need to trust them a little more.
18. You need to use tools in the classroom that we use in the real world like Facebook, email, and other tools we use to connect and communicate.
Another broad yes. Then they proceeded to ask me to accept their friend request (another refusal).
19. You need to love a student before you can teach a student.
They really didn’t like this at all. In fact, they thought it was weird. When I rephrased to ask if they think a teacher needs to like them, they were on board. It seemed that what was key (especially for this age group) was feeling that a teacher liked them as a person.
20. We do tests to make teachers look good and the school look good, but we know they don’t help us to learn what’s important to us.
Students clearly don’t like tests. However, they did feel that some tests did help them to learn – it depended on how it was written. Another note to self – reevaluate tests.