Saturday, May 2, 2015

When We Talk About School Reform

There's a lot to be complained about at school! Everyone has an opinion on it. At every level there are things to gripe about. Whether it's kids, parents, politicians, or teachers, there's a lot we can point to. Pay, testing, grading, evaluations, bonuses, hours, calendar, there are so many things that need attention.

The thing is, I feel like the most ignored opinion in education is the one it has the most impact on - the students. And I know, we're talking about people who have to be goaded into doing what's right for them, people who often don't have good long term planning skills. Sure, but if you talk to the average adult, those weaknesses often don't go away just because you're grown up. If they did, diets, bankruptcies, and lawyers would not play so large in our society.

I do frequently hear the phrase, "What's best for the kids?" and I know that kids don't always know the answer to that. I feel, though, that to get more kid buy-in on learning, to make things memorable, and positive in their educational career, you have to bring them into the conversation. In the classroom, even in elementary school, that means training your students to be leaders. Children - much like other, grown, humans -like to be trusted, and enjoy when they're afforded some autonomy. So if we put some power in their hands, they can learn about the stakes in the game. Having a student not only understanding, but helping to set their educational goals is such a powerful motivator in setting the purpose for learning. When your class has their goals at heart, cutting them in on how to run the class makes sense.

Can it go higher? At what point in the decision making process do we cut out student voice? Teachers are often left out of the decision making process at the legislative level. On so many teacher Facebook pages, you'll see memes about how the people making decisions about school should have classroom experience. I don't disagree, but why stop there? I know the logistics would be tricky, but I want to see students cut into the process.

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