I experienced two very important things recently:
1) - If you ask, you shall receive...
Last week I asked 5 students to answer 5 questions related to education. The questions have nothing to do with my class content, nor will the students receive anything for completing the 5 questions. I simply asked 5 of my students to give me their opinion and feedback on certain education related issues. The questions were about both teachers and administrators and their current roles, as well as the potential of their roles changing as our society continues to evolve. The answers I got were not quite what I expected...here are a few responses:
- "Yes, the role of the educator has changed so that he or she must not only teach us, but also teach us with technology."
- "An educator will always educate; it will just be different than before."
- "The quality of learning depends on the quality of the teacher."
- "The role of the educator should be to expose students to all types of information so they can learn to learn on their own."
- "Thinking is free, technology should be fully integrated, thus learning will become more fun and less time consuming."
Wow! I was so impressed with these responses. It is definitely clear to me that we need to be listening a lot more closely to what our kids are saying. We can't just listen to our students; we need to act and respond to what they are saying. When given the opportunity to voice their opinion, students have without doubt surpassed my wildest expectations, and because of this I strongly urge schools to sit down and truly involve the "real" stakeholders.
2) - Unleash the fury and fire of the students...
At my high school we just had our first half-day of the school year. A tremendous amount of planing went into this half-day because this would be a half-day where students would not be exposed to any "typical class content." On this half-day our 3 main goals were to spend time with our advisory students, have time to discuss service learning projects, and lastly talk about the word "respect."
I would be lying if I said I was not slightly worried and concerned about how these activities would play out, however by the end of the day it became clear to me what we had accomplished. While discussing each of these topics with my students we were able to go on several side tangents. Not that I am advocating going on side tangents all the time, but the side tangents were just as productive if not more than our original intended topics! I could not believe how much passion and heart my students were displaying as we discussed their school...their education...and their future. It was as if these students were just waiting for the time and opportunity to talk, and more importantly, waiting for a time to be heard. At the end of each session I made sure to ask my students what they thought and if they enjoyed the day. I already knew the answer based off of their level of engagement and participation...they loved it...
As educators we have to reevaluate how we do business in our schools. Our students will always be our number 1 client, and consequently we need to know what they think, why they think it, and how they think we can provide them a better service. The term "stakeholders" gets thrown around pretty frequently, and I want this to be a friendly reminder that the "real" stakeholders have always been and willing always be...the students - are we listening to what they have to say?