If I were a student in a high poverty public school, I would pose the following questions to my teachers, guidance counselor, principal, and parents/guardians. This piece is not intended to score cheap education reform or political points. After a few years experience teaching in a high poverty public middle school, this piece simply reflects some of my students points-of-view.
If I were a student, I would ask my teacher, “Why do you spend more time yelling at the misbehaving students, and not reminding me that I’m doing a great job? I would like to hear you tell me that you’re proud of me. I hate being ignored, especially when I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do.”
If I were a student, I would ask my teacher, “Why do I have to fill-in worksheets? Do you realize I live in a tech-dependent world? Why do I have to turn in my smart phone? Why can’t I use it for learning during class time? Why am I writing on a sheet of paper, when I could be practicing on my typing skills?”
If I were a student, I would ask my teacher, “ Do you genuinely care about me? Did you become a teacher because it’s a job or because you believe in me? I want a positive, fun, and exciting teacher. I want to come to your class, but I don’t want to be bored.”
If I were a student, I would ask my guidance counselor, “Why don’t we meet often to discuss my academic future? Do you really want me to go to a great university or are you just saying that because it sounds nice?”
If I were a student, I would ask my guidance counselor, “What should I be doing, now, to make sure I’m on the right path toward achieving academic success? It would be nice to have an individual education plan, not based on learning disabilities, but based on achieving MY academic goals.”
If I were a student, I would ask my principal, “Why are certain students allowed to ruin my school’s climate? Do you realize how much time my teachers spend on redirecting disruptive students? I’m tired of not being able to learn in a fun and exciting environment, because my teacher has to waste time calling someone’s parent, or filling out a referral form?
If I were a student, I would ask my principal, “Why do a majority of students get promoted, regardless of whether they mastered the skills they needed? Do you realize that I can tell which students have earned a promotion and which ones have not? Do you know that promoting all students, regardless of whether they earned it or not, tells me that the time and effort I put into completing my schoolwork doesn’t really matter?”
If I were a student, I would ask my parents/guardians, “Why aren’t you a part of the my school’s PTA? Do you really want to be involved in my academic future? Do you really care about my well-being, while I’m at school?”
If I were a student, I would ask my parents/guardians, “Why haven’t you visited my school? Don’t you want to meet my teachers? Don’t you want to see my work hanging up in the classroom? I’m proud of my work. I want you to be proud of it too.”
If I were a student, I would ask my fellow classmates, “Why do you feel it’s ok to just show up to class? Do you really want to be a professional lawyer, doctor, artist, etc.? Do you really want to go to college, or are you just repeating a nice slogan? Do you know that you have the power and ability to control your academic success?”
All too often education reform debates claim to speak for students. Every education reformer, think tank, specialist, etc., claims to have the students’ best interests in mind. However, what’s missing in these discussions is the students’ points-of-view or student voice. Instead of spending so much time and energy slugging it out on the top floor, we need to focus more of our attention on the classroom level. Contrary to popular opinion, every public school is not created equal. Each one will have its own set of circumstances and challenges. So, instead of spending valuable time, energy, and resources searching for the illusive panacea, we should re-calibrate our efforts and try to understand our students’ points-of-view.