Wednesday, September 28, 2011

20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education

It's rare for education reformers, policymakers, and funders to listen to those at the heart of education reform work: The students. In fact Ann Curry who hosted Education Nation's first *student panel admitted folks at NBC were a little nervous about putting kids on stage. In their "Voices of a Nation" discussion, young people provided insight into their own experiences with education and what they think needs to be done to ensure that every student receives a world-class education. After the discussion Curry knew these students didn't disappoint. She told viewers, "Students wanted to say something that made a difference to you (adults) and they did. Now adults need to listen."

Here is a video of the student panelists followed by a recap of some of the sentiments they shared.

Below are the sentiments shared by these current and former students during the segment.
  1. You need to love a student before you can teach a student.
  2. I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
  3. Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.
  4. When you can feel like a family member it helps so much.
  5. You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.
  6. We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.
  7. Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.
  8. Tell me something good that I'm doing so that I can keep growing in that.
  9. Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.
  10. I have to critically think in college and career, but your tests don't teach me that.
  11. We learn in different ways at different rates.
  12. Teaching by the book is not teaching. It's just talking.
  13. The community should become more involved in schools.
  14. Even if you don't want to be a teacher, you can offer a student an apprenticeship.
  15. 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.
  16. We appreciate when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype
  17. Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music.
  18. Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.
  19. 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.
  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.
The students are ready to talk to us.  How are we going to make time to listen and incorporate their voices into the policies and decisions that affect them?

Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback - Philadelphia Eagles
Shadrack Boayke - Brentwook, NY
Colton Bradford - Mobile, AL
Ron Daldine - Auburn Hills, MI
Rayla Gaddy - Detroit, MI
Katie Oliveria - Las Vegas, NV
Stephanie Torres - New York, NY

The people tweeting about student voice at Education Nation.

Want to hear from more students?  Read the answers Assistant Principal at Kettle Run High School in Nokesville, VA. got from more than 200 of his students here


  1. Wonderful article Lisa! I hope the administration is listening!

  2. Thanks. I especially like #16 because I'm not a regular classroom teacher & providing music enrichment programs is what I do. :-)

  3. This is soo validating. Our school is a family and we are all counselors and we love each and every student and that is why it works! I'm sending this to my staff and my superintendent!

  4. Here's a blog response to this post.

  5. While this list contains many valuable insights about the emotional and educational needs of students, it also veers off into pure sentimentality beyond objective reality. Let's take #19 as the prime example: "You need to love a student before you can teach a student." This statement is simple, Hallmark-type gibberish. You need to respect students, but as Tina Turner might have sung "what's love got to do with it?"

    More focus, longer attention spans, and a bit of curiosity on the student's part are far more essential than some utopian expectation that students must receive love before they can learn. Of course, emotionally-need students can set that demand and they will continue to fail themselves and far further, and further behind other more ambitious, determined, and emotionally mature students from around the globe.

    Perhaps insisting that words have actual meaning, offering constructive criticism, and sharing actual information, and dropping the New Age fantasies of the classroom as a room of unconditional approval to boost self-esteem would be a more enlightened path to academic success.

  6. @Eric Roth, It seems you missed that class in teacher training on Maslow's Hierarchy of needs ( Tina Turner would be the first to understand that if a person does not feel loved, it is difficult to reach them.

    Interestingly there is a successful school model called Nuestra Escuela that recognizes this and the institution's is based on "love" as its foundation. You can read about it here

    Like the students of the past, today's students are able to focus for long durations when what you are teaching them is interesting and relevant. Sadly, in schools today, that is often missing. The kids feel like they're being fed information they never asked to learn and is not relevant to their lives. They are telling us that they are curious, but we aren't bothering to offer the subjects they are curious about.

    These kids shared words that have powerful meaning. Here are some lessons they want you to take away.

    -Understand Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
    -Let them know they matter and tell them why.
    -Use the tools in school that they use in the real world.
    -Teach them things "they' care about.
    -Listen to them and include them in conversations about decisions affecting them.
    -Don't just teach to the test. Teach to the student and connect that to how this might help them achieve success in the real world.

  7. I love number 9. It's genius. And it's so unexpected, but I think it would actually work.


  8. I've seen so many teachers' comments similar to Eric Roth's on other sites where this blogpost is on. Although it is sad that there is a disconnect between teachers and students on this, it is also illustrative of the system-wide attitudes of ignoring the essential needs of a learner, the first and foremost being recognition and valuation of their individuality.

    Yes, the kids sound like a hallmark card, and yes it all feels a bit warm and fuzzy, new agey sentimentality. So what? This is an honest exchange provided by our children and it should not be ignored or discounted, no matter how "silly" it sounds to some.

    I happen to think it's not silly and that it has everything to do with LOVE. There, I said it... LOVE! So what has LOVE got to do with it? Well, the kids say, "everything."

    I also understand that teachers are having a tough time in schools. Face it, school is not a friendly place for teachers and students these days. But, in the end, it boils down to who and what education is all about. It's not about the teachers. It's about the students. It's about the kids. It's about recognizing them, valuing them, and yes, even loving them - in all their hallmark gibberish glory.

  9. Wow Chris G! Well said! I think instead of taking Tina Turner's lead in this, we need to take a little advice from the Beatles who remind us that when it comes down to it, "All you need is love."

  10. As a teacher, I happen to agree with Eric Roth. Ann Curry suggests that this list is a mandate for teachers to listen. By all means listen to what kids are saying and what they are not saying. There is an absence of real self-awareness that shows a willingness to consider what the student needs to bring to the classroom--curiosity, self-discipline, the ability to delay gratification, and focus. We should not be surprised by this because they are kids with a limited understanding of what is required to learn effectively. Much of what they say they need should be supplied by PARENTS, extended family, and adult mentors such as coaches, group leaders, youth ministers, etc. If children come to school feeling loved, a clear sense of belonging to a family, a good night's, and a full stomach, then they are prepared to learn. Instead of piling on ALL of these aspects of personal development on teachers, why not expose parents who are FAILING to parent and pressure them to be responsible and accountable for nurturing the lives they have brought into this world.
    Lastly, much readiness to learn could be achieved by turning off the TV, the cellphone, the iPad, the XBOX, or any other electronic screen and opening a book with real pages and no distractions.

  11. Great piece Lisa. These kids validate so much.

  12. I love this! I am a strong believer in building a solid relationship with as many students as I can. When you stop trying to control the kids and actually show care and respect, it's amazing what begins to take place. As for mandated testing, I agree 100%. I just wish teachers had a say...

  13. @Anne Marie Dominguez, I’m confused as to why you believe these students are not self aware. They were VERY aware about the huge disconnect between what occurs in the school and what they need to be prepared for real life. Students understand that they need curiosity, self-discipline, the ability to delay gratification, and focus. When they have the opportunity to explore topics “they” are passionate about in areas of interest to “them” using the tools of “their” world, these traits magically appear. Unfortunately a dumbed down and narrowed curriculum that rewards compliance, memorization, and regurgitation of disconnected facts using tools of the past does not foster such behaviors.

    I’m am saddened by low expectation for children. They were born knowing how to learn and be inquisitive. Unfortunately in our data, not passion, driven culture, schools have swiftly killed creativity and resulted in children shutting down and turning off in a boring and disconnected environment.

    I have to say that I am also sooo tired of people dismissing the need of children to feel love and belonging in school and saying this should happen elsewhere. Sure, that’s great if it’s possible, but clearly kids need this now and they have every right to be entitled to that in the place where they are forced to spend most of their childhood.

    You ask, why not expose parents? Where I teach the answer to that is because many of my students don’t have parents. If they do they may be in and out of jails and they may be in and out of foster homes and shelters. Like it or not, our kids come to school with these needs and we NEED to stop passing the buck and take ownership for the children in front of us. Before we teach subjects we teach people and they need to know they belong and are loved. If teachers can’t do that, they should find a new profession.

    Regarding your suggestion to turn off 21st century tools...
    Don’t you get it? Kids have been disconnected and unplugged in school for most of the 21st century. That IS NOT THE PROBLEM. What we are teaching is boring and irrelevant. Technology provides tools to produce, create, connect to the world. We must stop trying to force children to learn the way we learned and give them the freedom to learn, produce, create, and grow in their world using their tools which are the very skills they’ll need to succeed in the world.

  14. @Jim Lerman, thank you!
    @Anonymous, we do have a voice. Start using it :)
    If you don't know how, read my six step plan here

  15. Idealism has always been rampant in education, and the Innovative Educator is the prime example of this. Granted, there is nothing wrong with students asking for "connection," love, and acknowledgement. What is wrong is teachers are expected to play the role of the all-round social worker. Realistically, there is only one way to improve education: Start returning RESPECT to the profession, i.e., stop treating teachers as if they were airheads, and stop mollycoddling the young.

  16. Bravo for these 20 suggestions! They echo what thousands of others students have told What Kids Can Do (dot org)in books like "Fires in the Mind" and audiovisual materials like "Just Listen: Kids Talk About Learning" (see ).
    Their suggestions make clear one central point: when adults make students respected partners in investigating "what it takes to get really good at something" the quality of learning goes up-- because everyone brings something to the table.

  17. I don't think that Anne Marie Dominguez is decrying "21st Century Tools" and I think you're getting a little too defensive in your comments there.

    As an English teacher, I agree with her sentiment in that I think she means that they should learn to not be so distracted. I teach, as a part of my curriculum, reading and literature. Some of that material is contemporary and uses 21st C. tools (i.e., blogs, online editions of the NYT, etc.) but some of that material is what sometimes is referred to as "the classics."

    For example, my sophomores read Elie Wiesel's Night. In our class sessions, we discuss the book and also use a multitude of media to further our knowledge and exploration of the topic. However, when push comes to shove? THEY HAVE TO READ THE BOOK. And speaking from experience, it's difficult to truly absorb a book like that (or many other books) with a television blaring or while texting your friends or while surfing the web.

    In other words, as much as those tools can help us, they can also be detrimental because we won't know how to slow down and focus. We need to teach our students HOW to use them and how to use them wisely. And that includes knowing when to turn them off. It had nothing to do with forcing them to learn the way we learned.

  18. To Innovative Educator (a.k.a Lisa),
    I know this is your blog; you certainly have a bevy of supporters who I am sure laud every word you keystroke. I don't believe I aimed my criticism to you personally but to the focus of the NBC piece and Ann Curry. What disappoints me, Innovative Educator, is that you seem only receptive to those who perceive education as you do and dismissive of teaching professionals with valid, experienced-based responses that counter your ideology. If you are averse to engaging in lively interaction among your blog readers, by all means relegate your back-patter comments to your personal email or tweet accounts and disable the comment option.
    I stand by my position on parents, especially being one myself. Also focused reading is essential to brain development and lessons in critical thinking. I teach my students to read deliberately and think deeply about the ideas presented in the text oftentimes to recognize the bias and incoherent reasoning that characterizes most exchanges in cyberspace. I am not convinced that communication and learning via electronic devices fosters quality knowledge or character building connections, which brings us back to the 20 comments from students who mostly speak of wanting meaningful relationships with caring adults. But one must understand that caring is not synonymous with indulgent.

  19. @Anonymous, What you call idealism is what I have seen in action in schools like Big Picture, Democratic Schools, Nuestra Escuela, North Star, schools using SEM, etc. etc. etc. Perhaps it is because I’ve seen what I talk about work, I have the good fortune to know my ideals can be realized in the right setting. Check out some of those schools / models and your ideals may change as well.

  20. @Tom,
    I was responding to Anne Marie’s suggestion
    “Readiness to learn could be achieved by turning off the TV, the cellphone, the iPad, the XBOX, or any other electronic screen and opening a book with real pages and no distractions.”
    It is these blanket statements and generalities that are dangerous. As I said above, we have all those devices turned off in most classrooms and we’re not getting the results she suggests. There are many people out there who, like me, need technology as the very tool to help them focus and produce. The conversation shouldn’t be on tools, but rather helping students find the ideal environment in which to learn. For some it will be with lots of technology all the time (like it is with me), for others it will not. Our job isn’t to tell students what is right, but rather to help them figure it out.

    1. Some people will never understand that not all of us learn well from printed textbooks. To them the ideal environment is when the class sits there quietly and reads the book to learn.

      I agree we have to examine what we use for value but to not use new tools; thinking like that would have us still in the dark ages.

  21. @Anne Marie Dominguez, I honor every voice that comes to my blog and respond as frequently as time allows. I have never deleted a comment. That said, I disagree with you. I am not dismissing you. I am hearing you. Responding to you and telling you that despite your experience, I think you are wrong. I think that there is a better way to engage with students than what you suggest.

    Your argument about reading is also off. I NEVER said focused reading wasn’t important. I also never said it wasn’t necessary for students to read deliberately or think deeply, recognize bias, etc. Please go back through and read my blog posts and all my comments if you’d like to verify that. What I am saying is that we all focus differently. I read my books on a computer and that works much better for me than reading a paper book. There is research that indicates I am not alone. If you’re interested in that, stay tuned for a post on my blog about it next week. I don’t like just reading either. I like to read a bit, then if possible have lively online discussions about a particular piece or chapter with tools like Book Glutton or onlline book clubs. ( Reading, then writing and processing is what works best for me. There are students for whom this would also work well. Therefore, when you start to impose your bias against technology on all your students, you are not honoring them as individuals. You are not fostering independence to support them in determining what works best for them. It may very well be different than what worked best for you.

    Allowing students freedom and options and honoring how they learn best, is not indulgent. Students should have a right to make decisions about their learning and it pisses them off when adults don’t let them. Travis Allen is one such student who had teachers like you that believed in powering down for focus and critical thinking. He felt stripped of his freedom to learn in his way. He is now about 19 years old and has a company that employs 25 young people who go around the world to explain to educators how they use technology as learning tools and try to convince them to stop banning and blocking and instead empower them with the freedom to learn in their way. Perhaps you'd like to invite him to come to your district to explain how this works from the perspective of a student. You can check him out here

  22. I still really think you're misconstruing mine and Anne Marie's comments and it's because I really don't think you're listening. I also think that you've fallen for the "digital natives" trick.

    As I said earlier, there is nothing wrong with technology, but it is not a cure-all for education and sometimes its distractions impede the ability to think and then to learn. As I said, I often use technology in my classroom but whenever I approach a new device or platform or activity, I always have to ask myself how I can implement it so that it can be an effective tool, or if it's just a fancy new way of doing something that we've always done.

    Furthermore, when I see new tools introduced, I wind up asking myself how it fits in with what those in the outside world (which they will eventually work in) will ask for. For example, I have had students that can text 100 words a minute yet don't know how to italicize text in MS Word. Will texting come in handy if they ever work in an office? Maybe, depends on the job. Will a basic knowledge of MS Word come in handy? Having worked in the corporate world before I became a teacher (and having a spouse who still does), I can give that a resounding "YES!"

    And yet, I am not a luddite. I, just like Anne Marie in her comments, often see through the shininess of toys to judge them and their use for practical reasons and to see how they are going to help us teach or enhance the skills they need.

    Plus, we need to be able to know how to teach these things without technology and foster a better learning environment without 21st Century tools because, as I have found in my building, those tools aren't always available, up-to-date, or working ... through no fault of the individual teacher.

    You need to stop listening to all the sycophantic commenters and consider a more open dialogue. Or turn off comments. It's your call.

  23. @Tom,
    I am listening. I just disagree. As you and Anne Marie have noted, I am not alone. Many of my readers have had different experiences than the two of you when empowering children with the freedom to use 21st century tools for learning. Your suggestion to block comments to foster a more open dialogue, makes no sense. I honor all voices and comments hear and invite an open dialogue.

    To your next point, let me clarify several of your misconceptions. First, I never said tech was a cure all. I never suggested tech should be used as a fancy way to do what we have always done. I have said, that just because the teacher doesn’t understand the value of technology, that doesn’t mean that s/he should ban a student for the freedom to use the technology they feel will help them learn best, even if you don’t get it.

    I also never said it wasn’t a distraction. Many things are distracting in schools. For me the biggest distraction was a boring and irrelevant curriculum that didn’t prepare me for the real world. Textbooks were ridiculous boring and a huge distraction to learning. Tests and test prep also distracted me from deep thinking and learning. There are many distractions in school today. That said, what is a distraction to one person might be just the tool another needs to focus. I recommend you read some of my writing on assistive technology and differentiating learning. There you will discover how, for many students, technology serves as a necessary tool for focus and critical thinking.

    Your point about MS Word goes along with everything I publish in this blog. If we have students use real tools and do real work of the real world then we are preparing them to succeed in that world. Unfortunately, much of the work students are required to do in schools today is not real and does not have an authentic audience. When we start doing that type of work, students will develop the skills to produce that type of work.

    To your point about shiney tools, I, and many of my readers, see very clearly through the shininess of tools. In fact, I am one of the prolific writers against using shiney tools, like Smartboards, for the sake of using them. I would never suggest using a tool for the shiney factor. I suggest using the tools that are used in the worldl because that is what students need to be successful outside of school.

    Finally, we are always teaching without meaningfully using 21st century tools in school. In fact in many cities, like the one where I live, students are banned from using their digital devices in school. I think that’s wrong and so do the students. Our job as educators is NOT to prepare students for an artificial school environment. It is to prepare them for the world and their worlds require they know how to work effectively in a world where technology is ubiquitous.

  24. @Tom and Anne Marie

    I'm 19. I left school in 6th grade due to precisely the reasons that Lisa has articulated.

    The biggest challenge I faced -- and still face today -- is finding respect. Why don't we believe in the youth? We're born naturally curious. The problem is that when we're told there one answer at the back of the book we loose all interest in learning.

    The biggest gift my parents ever gave me was believing in me. When I told my parents in 5th grade that I was bored in school, even though my mom was a public school teacher, they told me I could decide whether or not to stay in school.

    I left and become an unschooler -- and that was the best decision I ever made. What I learned as an unschooler were the soft skills required to navigate the world.

    Lisa, increasingly I feel as though what I should be fighting for is youth rights, not education revolution. The cheapest education reform is to believe in children.

  25. Dale: i suggest you read what Tom has actually written, and also consider that most people who leave school, like most of the men in my family, didn't have the "freedom" to do so. They were driven by economic necessity, as well as boredom at times. But they then had to find jobs that, without a degree and necessary skills, they found to be quite a difficult and often degrading process.

    The silliest idea is to think that the biggest problem facing schools is that teachers don't believe in children. I work daily to instill the faith I have in my children into them because I know how life will kick them down. Over 95% of my school are immigrants who live below the poverty level. No matter how much faith I put in them, it won't put food in their bellies, or prevent la migra from deporting their dads while they are in my classroom. We need faith, but we also need to not let hold our grasp of reality, and put teachers' impact potential in context.

  26. Dale, I understand your point of view. However, I think we need to further define "respect" as it applies to teachers and students.

    Respect is earned. I think it's rude for me to look at you and tell you to respect me because I'm your teacher, especially if I don't know you. It shows too much ego, and is presumptuous. At the same time, a student claiming I don't respect him very often is simply being petulant because I didn't indulge him.

    The appropriate words for students and teachers should be appreciate or appreciation. I don't expect students to respect me the minute they walk in on day one. But I do expect them to appreciate the basic rules for what they are (i.e., when I tell you not to eat in the room because ants show up real quick, it applies to you; when I ask you not to belch or fart, it applies to you; when I ask you to not talk over me or your classmates, it applies to you).

    And I know there are expectations of me as a teacher. I appreciate their strengths as well as their deficiencies and that means that I adjust my planning and my teaching around those. If I read their essays and the mechanics are strong but their attention to detail is weak, I'm going to focus on how to develop solid examples and vivid description and not harp on the fact that the word is "lose" not "loose."

    And the thing is, sometimes, we need the answers in the back of the book. Very often they are facts and very often they are fundamentals that are the basis for those higher-level skills that make us love learning. If we don't know why the sentence is gramatically incorrect, then we're not going to improve; if we don't know how to solve an equation involving cosines, we're not going to be able to go on to the next skill; if we don't know how the First World War ended, we're not going to be able to discuss the second.

    I'm glad your parents gave you the gift of unschooling, but there are a significant number of children whose parents can't give the gift of unschooling. What say you to them, those who are "trapped" in this system? You want them to fight for their right to ... do what, exactly? Do you know the restrictions that both students and teachers have on their rights? Do you know who is fighting to change those restrictions? Do you know who often strives to give students a voice? Do you know that many of those people are teachers and that very often they are frustrated because of the uphill battle that they face?

    We sometimes come off as negative or cynical because we are very aware of the realities of our own situation ... and do our best to change it in spite of them.

    To say that "the cheapest education reform is to believe in children" is, quite frankly, an insult. It's an insult to teachers who day in and day out do believe in our students, and it's an insult to the students themselves, at least the ones I teach in high school. I never call them kids. I never call them children. I call them students. That's one bit of appreciation that leads to respect.

  27. Many thanks to Tom and Anonymous for the insightful follow-up comments.

    Being that it is Sunday afternoon, I need to plan "boring and irrelevant" lessons on the works of Emerson and Thoreau for my students this week.

    Signing off for good,
    Anne Marie Dominguez

    P.S. A good book to read for Dale and all other "innovative" educators is Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other by Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Science and Technology at MIT. It is 300+ pages of small print which may, for some, become "boring and irrelevant" after the first 50 pages.

  28. Likewise, I have to make sure my notes are together for Tuesday's student-run discussion of Twelfth Night. Yeah, boring and irrelevant methods and all.

  29. @Anne Marie Dominguez
    So ironically hypocritical of you to suggest I am only receptive to those who perceive education as I do and that I’m dismissive of others, when you choose to thank only those who agree with you. Shouldn’t you also be thanking those whose ideology is counter to yours that are taking the time to respond or is that only your advice for others?

    What you and Tom both fail to understand is that what you think is interesting and relevant is not that way for all. What you see as the best way to focus and think is not the same for all. It would behove you to support your students in discovering what “they” not “you” find interesting and relevant and to determine how “they” learn best, rather than how “you” think they will learn best. HSBC does a good job in bringing this point to life through their add campaign In short what the students and I suggest you consider doing is empowering them to learn in ways they find relevant and interesting using the tools they feel will help them do that best.

  30. “When I tell you not to eat in the room because ants show up real quick, it applies to you; when I ask you not to belch or fart, it applies to you; when I ask you to not talk over me or your classmates, it applies to you.”

    Teachers who operate classrooms in the manner above might well be served by studying principals of Democracy/Free schools. It is much more powerful for the learning community when “they” determine the rules under which to exist together rather than having someone else telling them what to do all the time. Bringing students into the discussion about the rules that they must follow is right, fair, and fosters a sense of belonging.

  31. I acknowledge the typo, but will use my iPhone as a scapegoat.


    You should look at me and tell me to respect you -- but not because you're a teacher. I should respect you because you're a person just as a respect you because you're a person.

    You say you respect your students, but I do not believe that. If you truly respected the people with which you learn you wouldn't call them students.

    "Student" and "teacher" are misnomers. The reinforce a false hierarchy.

  32. @Dale: Did you read this part? ...

    "The appropriate words for students and teachers should be appreciate or appreciation. I don't expect students to respect me the minute they walk in on day one. But I do expect them to appreciate the basic rules for what they are (i.e., when I tell you not to eat in the room because ants show up real quick, it applies to you; when I ask you not to belch or fart, it applies to you; when I ask you to not talk over me or your classmates, it applies to you)."

    And regarding that last, classroom rules comment, IE, I'm sorry if it makes me seem too strict, but I figure that by the time you're a teenager you should know that maintaining your bodily functions and other proper manners goes without saying. Plus, I'm not the only one who's spotted an ant or a cockroach in the building, so when I say "We get ants really quick in this room" I'm trying to keep things sanitary.

    And your comment to Anne Marie was snotty at best. Fresh perspectives and different opinions are great, but why the need to express such things so dismissively?

  33. Btw, having come from marketing and being that I'm married to someone who is in marketing, I find it hard to take comfort in an ad meant to manipulate me into giving a credit card company more of my money.

    Just sayin'.

  34. Thank you for posting this, Lisa. I agree that there are a lot of important things in students' suggestions. However, I also have to agree with several of the points made by Tom, Anne Marie, and others. (Please do not take my position as a personal affront to you or your beliefs). They do not disregard Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but rather acknowledge the reality that they, as a classroom teacher, cannot possibly give all students love, meet all of their individual needs, be their life coach, etc.

    There is so much more that I want to write here, but I don't want to get too into it. On the one hand, there are people like today's education "reformers" who treat kids [and teachers] disgustingly as statistics and ignore everything but their academic "results," and on the other end of the spectrum there are people like you who want to nurture every individual kid and raise them in a school. Your vision is much better than the corporate "reformers'," but is completely unrealistic in today's PUBLIC school setting. It is great to be idealistic, but realism is also a necessity.

  35. @Realistic Teacher,

    If you agree that it would be beneficial to students to give them love, meet their individual needs, be their life coach, etc. then the response shouldn't be, we can't do it. Instead it should be what do we need to do to ensure we do.

    As I stated earlier in this thread, there are teachers who find a way and school models built around this concept. It is possible. It is real in environments where students are valued in such ways.

    If you're interested in how, study Nuestra Escuela, Big Picture, Democratic schools, and the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.

  36. This is great! Good teachers are already doing these things. By "good," I don't mean popular, but effective. Check #10. Shouldn't "Us youth" be "We youth?" Sorry. It's the teacher in me.

  37. Let me start off by saying that I loved what the students had to say in the interview. I use to be a "classroom" teacher in the sense that I was the leader and the students followed me. I told them what they needed to know; they would memorize the material, take the test, and then pass the test. When asked later what they remember most of the students could not remember anything.

    Last year I finished up my Master's and a large portion of that was building relationships with my students. I spent the first week, not teaching, but getting to know my students. Each week I took 20 minutes to do a get to know you activity with the students. At the end of the year, my students performed better on all of their assessments. Not just compared to my classes before but to the other four schools in the district as well. Now, I guess you can credit it to a different group of students, but I credit it to the relationship building. They wanted to be in my class and they wanted to succeed because I wanted them to and I cared for them.

    Do to family dynamics, I have had to relocate. I am no longer at that school and I still have students e-mailing me and telling me things that are going on in their lives. I live about 2 hours away from them, and when they have activities in my current town, they ask me to come. So I believe relationships are important.

    Now, to some of the other comments coming in from the blog. At the school I am currently working at I am one of two teachers starting a project based classroom...with the hopes of our own school in three years. With this program, I am no longer a teacher and the students my followers. I am a guide to their learning. They create projects that tie in their interest to the standards set forth by the state. They create their rubrics (with input from me); they do their reflections; they ultimately give themselves a grade. This may sound fluffy to some, but we have set the model to be both rigorous and yet relevant. That is what students want. They want to have a say in what they learn and how they learn it. Minnesota New Country School has been doing a similar program for 18 years with great success. Relationship building is also a key to make the program a success.

    I believe we need to listen to the students and meet their needs. Truly to those that are not agreeing with the students opinions, then why are you teachers. It should always be about the students and I learned this only recently but it just makes sense. The world is changing and we need to change how we teach for the students!!!

  38. The sad thing is that in an authentic Montessori school, the students ARE connected to their teachers, and, more importantly, to each other as a peaceful community of support. There isn't a disconnect between the teachers and the culture of the children in Montessori schools like there is in conventional schools. I saw this disconnection firsthand while a therapist in the public school system.

    Public school policies make it very difficult to bring authentic Montessori education to the public school system. This is a shame because Montessori education acts as "prevention" for children, which means very little "intervention" is required.

  39. Wow! These kids bring up some excellent and insightful points. I am specifically going to comment on number 17 and number 20.

    In number 17 these students pointed out that their voice should be heard when determining and discussing educational policies and they are correct about this. I also think, though, that teacher voices need to be heard in the same way. I feel that overall the people running the show in education are not the people that are directly involved in the process (i.e. the teachers and the students). Instead policies are determined by people that are more worried about money then education. Both teachers and students need to step up to the plate!

    Number 20 is just excellent! It is impossible for us to give students a valid reason for why they should truly care about standardized testing as much as we are forced to. The only reason I could give my students is because if we score badly as a school things are only going to get worse. I told them to talk to students at the schools in the district that have been failing for years and see how much worse they have it in school. In those schools teachers are forced to read off of a script each day and go through the most boring programs intended to teach the most basic skills. There is no room for technology integration or project-based learning. Just teaching and drilling the standards. So, as much as it sucks for all of us, we better preform well until it is finally gone. Lets all just hope this is sooner rather than later!

  40. Teachers need training in how to teach students how to be critical thinkers and to question/evaluate what they read and see in the media. Teachers need to model for students how to read texts and the news by asking whose voice is being silenced? What is the author's agenda and who is paying for the news feed? Students need to be taught to question what is the textbook and not accept it the truth or an accurate account. Critical thinking skills must be taught. Unfortunately there are teachers that do not how to do this! They simple read from a text and expect the students to memorize and regurgitate what they have read on tests.

  41. Really? The 'adults' at NBC were nervous about letting children speak about what they want and need? Why?

  42. What a concept! If we are looking to teach anyone, ask them what they are interested in and how best do they learn it. Is anyone surprised they knew exactly what was up?

  43. @ Laura
    I disagree. I really think students and teachers can connect in any given school setting. The teachers have to take the time to make the connections. Just larger public schools have more students but the teachers will still have 30 students in each class. Teachers need to understand the importance of relationship building (like students are asking for) in order to help decrease the disconnects in the classroom. I worked in a school with 3000 students and my 150 I had a connection with. I knew what they enjoyed, what they wanted to become, etc. because I took the time to get to know them.

    I understand the policies with bring in project based learning into a district. This is what I am doing now. Starting a new program. If teachers understand the need for reform in the classroom then they have to be willing to fight and stand up for it. That is what I did and now I get to run with the program.

  44. Most of these top 20 requests from students are ridiculous. "You must love a student before you can teach a student." ??? Really? People can functionally work to train and develop young people without investing this kind of fuzzy emotion into it, it's creepy. You don't need to be buddies or homegirls with your students. Teachers should love to teach and provide training and development for students, trying to love a bunch of children will become emotionally exasperating.

    The most hilarious, but honest response to this list. I agree with it, please read it.

  45. Listen to the students. It's clear what they are looking for. All they want is someone to care, to listen to them. Listen to what the students want. Listen to what they need. Listening is a skill that all teachers need to develop. The ability to teach is secondary.

  46. I am WELL past high school. I am WELL past college. I was not homeschooled. I am NOT a techy person, and in fact have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I just want to set the scene here.

    1) If teachers treat students the same way that they treat other teachers, that is respect. When a teacher takes even a few minutes a day to listen diligently to the class, asking for their thoughts instead of giving them thoughts, that little investment will go a long way.

    When you take just a minute or two to validate someone's sense of worth or talent or specialty and give them a hint of respect, they will seek you out and strive to keep that respect. THAT is human nature. When someone is treated like one of a crowd, nothing of note, they have little problems acting like the crowd.

    **The same respect that causes a loved one to feel special and validated in the home ALSO works in the school.

    2) One way of showing respect is to ask a question that requires someone to show something of their thoughts and dreams and then LISTEN to it--kids AND adults alike thrive on this. In fact, we are admonished to use this tactic when applying for jobs, courting a sweetheart, making a friend...why do we think it is too much trouble in the classroom??

    This respect can also act as a very interesting segue into the lesson. For example, an English class might start with the teacher saying "Ok, what do you guys think about the concept of retribution? Good idea or bad?" and let the students SPEAK. Nod, look thoughtfully, say " guys bring up really good points. Let's see how retribution plays out in Hamlet...".

    Or in math "Who here knows how many minutes they have left on their cell phone? Who goes over? What data plan seems to work best--anyone know how to figure that out if you have different people using their phones for different things? We can figure that out using this algebra equation"

    3) Regarding technology, an interesting aside. My spouse bought me a kindle, but as much as I TRULY LOVE TO READ, I could not make my mind absorb the words on the screen, even when it was something I was interested in. I then got a kindle fire, and the change in screen instantly improved my comprehension. I am not a techy type of person--I do not care of my cell phone has hamsters powering it. However, this instance showed me that visual input DOES affect comprehension, even if we feel all romantic about actual books. Kids are not lazy by learning more readily by a screen, their eyes and brains have been trained by screens. So why are we balking? Shakespeare is no less poetic, the Bible no less Godly, the manual for assembling an internal combustion engine is no less instructive if it is accessed using technology than on paper.

    Think of it this way: a pen and ink drawing of a rose is less beautiful, less intriguing, less accessible, than a full color photo of a rose. If we can recognize that that works for algebra as well as roses, then we can see why technology can help access the mind of the student in ways that the more old fashioned ways don't.

    Just for what it is worth from someone who has been around a while.

  47. Lisa, Kids stuck in school often are not aware of what they want and need because they can't imagine all of the freedom that they have lost- They've never had it. They don't realize that their bodies and minds are imprisoned. They don't seem to realize what life would be like for them, the possibilities, if they were not confined to four walls for most of their childhood. Often what these children ask for is just playing right into the system, making improvements to their jail cells. Children who have never been to school or who have detoxed from school truly know what children need. Please read my son's blog post:

  48. Thank you, Laurie. Kids start out with an abundance of potential that is ripe for expression and manifestation on all sides of their development... How many of us remember that feeling of unbounded possibilities when we were very, very young? And then how many of us remember having our natural joy, curiosity, empathy, open-mindedness, flexibility gradually, but consistently, squashed? How many of us rebelled from that squashing effect? How many of us remember the amount of effort it took to get back to the place where we started all those years ago? What if we energetically took those life experiences of our own and turned them into advantages for the current wave of young students? How would we feel that they would probably want to be spoken to? How would we present topics of study? How would we help them to relate to math, literature, science ... and ... so importantly ... to EACH OTHER?!!!!!