Sunday, October 24, 2010

UPDATE: Is Anybody Asking The Kids?

A few weeks ago, I blogged about all of the discussion around what’s wrong with education today and the passion with which everyone is talking about it. I wondered if anyone was asking the students what they thought about the state of things.

So I asked kids, through a Google survey, what they thought of the state of things. I asked the following questions:
  1. What is working in education right now?
  2. If you could make only ONE change at school right now, what would you change?
  3. What else would you like to see change at school?
  4. Where do you go to school?
  5. How do you like to learn?

Here are a sampling of some of their responses (paraphrased):
  • Many students talked about liking hands-on opportunities
  • They liked learning with peers in groups or in pairs
  • Less violence – bullying addressed
  • Like using technology and see it as something that is working in education
  • One student wrote that they want to feel safe and be able to trust their teachers
  • One student wrote that he would like for someone to ask him about his opinion…
  • I think the technology helps a lot in schools, and having the teachers know how to work them instead of wasting the whole period fumbling around trying to understand the technology.
  • Clubs for different subjects to extend the learning for interested students
  • I personally like teachers that don't stop or rest until you understand and can do it over and over again correctly.
  • I would change some of the classes students have to take, like health, I took it in 7th grade, and now in 8th grade, I think if you all ready took the class, you shouldn't have to take it again, I know all this stuff from 7th grade, why should I have to learn it again?
  • I would change school hours. I would extend the hours by at least 1 or 2 hours long so that we could really pass the End of Grade tests because I think that if we have more time in the classes then more people would understand things to the point were you'll know it...
  • Less Lectures!

I included both generalizations combining several like responses, as well as some singular responses that I thought were significant. There were 80+ responses, and you can see the actual data HERE.

In general, I thought the responses had a positive tone, that things aren’t, perhaps, as broken as the media is making them sound. This was not a scientific survey, nor was the sample of respondents that broad, but I do like that students actually participated, and were honest about what they think.

I think there are a few illuminating discoveries here, though; inferences I’m making from what the students said:
  • Students want to be valued for their experiences and be voices in curricular decisions.
  • Students want to go beyond a comprehension level of knowledge. They want to know their content on a deep level.
  • Students want bullying/school violence to be addressed. (I work in a lot of schools that have programs in place or plan singular anti-bullying events. What is the outcome of these programs? How do they know / provide evidence for whether or not the program is working and/or valued by the students? Do students have a voice in the program design, implementation, and/or reflection?)
  • Students want someone who really cares about them and their learning. It reminds me of a book I read years ago called Inviting School Success by William Purkey. There are a myriad of other books on inviting behaviors and personal relationship building, but I like the simple and overarching message in Purkey’s book: Trust and Respect, the foundations of invitational theory, are at the root of promoting successful classroom practices. (I included a link to the book, knowing the price is steep, but used copies are inexpensive.)

I think more emphasis needs to be placed on the students’ voices in all this talk of school improvement and reform. I also think we need to differentiate the conversation based on populations of kids in our actual schools rather than trying to set national goals that only a fraction of our schools can realistically reach. We need to consider the improvement of teachers and not put our energies into ridiculous measures and evaluations that don’t paint an accurate picture of teacher performance.

We need to listen to the kids. They are the reason we do what we do. Don’t they deserve to be heard as loudly as the adults who think they know what’s best? There’s an old Hebrew proverb that fits here, based on an image I saw created for the “Great Quotes” FlickR group that says, “Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.”

Another important message here should be what we can collectively do to start enhancing our professional practice, leaving the traditional behind, and really start preparing these kids for a world where they will be expected to collaborate and communicate on a global scale, as well as think critically and creatively to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet. Worksheets and lectures aren’t going to prepare them, but those that depend on them can’t be dismissed--we need to build capacity around what works, be collaborative as professionals, and share the journey that is going to have the biggest impact on student achievement and real 21st Century preparation!


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  2. i love this blog because it speaks to us and not the older people of socity and that let's us know that our voice matters to sombody

  3. I believe people should listen to KIDS. If adults have the right to speak whats on their mind then kids should be able to. I think that kids can have powerful things to say that will change things around the school, enviroment, and etc. if people just let them speak out.

  4. I think this is a really good topic. I do agree with it, Teachers and workers should listen to the kids there wokrng with. They should be want to know what the kids think of there inviroment.

  5. I think that this is so true! and that just because the adults think they know more then us at everything well they dont at somethings like i feel like our parents think we are going through the SAME! thing they went when they were young well we are almost but i dont think our parents know how much this world has changed and that means how the schools are.
    Like if i could change anything i would change like how our classes are.
    and maybe no uniforms but that dosent matter.

  6. MikeFisher821, Great point you made! Not only to students and teacher at my school but teachers and students all over the world! I love the way you took our information and connected it with yours. Im also glad that you talked about bullying because it is a big thing in schools sometimes if kids are bullied so much it prevents them from comming to school! I also think its unusual that the main thing people wonna change is their uniforms not saying thats a bad thing but i agree with you its about the learning thats gonna get you passed the End Of Grade Tests,not your uniforms. Thank You for taking the time to write this blog post.

  7. this is a really cool blog i liked how you decided to write about this topic because the kids tell you how it feels being in school and its always good to tell someone your problems and also i cant wait to read another one of your blogs because this is a really good blog

  8. I think this is a great topic. I think who reads this topic if your teacher or student. But yeah teacher and parents think they know more maybe you do but really you was here when most things happen.People in this world today is learning new things. See when i was in like 1st grade i didnt learn something my parents did. And we haveing new things to have... so i think everyone learns different

  9. I agree with you completely. We need to be listened to more. We are the ones getting an education yet it's like we don't have a say in any of it. We have to listen to what the school decides or what are parents say but were not learning the same thing they did.
    Thanks for remembering us MikeFisher821 :)

  10. I agree with this blog because at least we will have some type of an opinoin here at school. It is also showing that we could care more about our education if you teachers and staff just ask

  11. I agree fully with this blog. They don't listen to our opinion as much. In a lot of schools there is bullying and theres nothing we can really do about it except having it adressed and sometimes it doesn't always stop so they should let our opinions be heard on the topic of bullying because maybe people would open there eyes and realize that our opinions do matter and that people do listen. Teachers and administration should listen more to what we have to say. This blog is really good.

  12. I definantly agree with this. No one ever listens to us as much. And just like candace said..... theres nothing we can do about it

  13. I agree with what you said, not many people listen to us kids and sometimes theres not anything we can do about this.

  14. thats the truth it is about time we were heard we are the next generation.

  15. Looks like this post has generated quite a conversation, Mr. Fisher! Keep up the good work!