Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not Listening



It is increasingly rare to hear teachers object to the idea that students should have a voice in their experience of school. Today, however, was one of those rare occasions. While a clear majority of teachers see the value of discovering what the teaching and learning environment looks like from the other side of the desk, two teachers today - one younger and one more veteran - gave several reasons why they thought what students thought had no place in their school's decision making process.

"A twelve year old is just not mature enough."
"We're the experts, what would the students add to what I already know?"
"They won't take it seriously."
"They don't understand."

I can only assume they have not seen the TED talk by Adora Svitak or the uplifting Ellen segment on Alanna Wall's Polish Girlz efforts or read Nikhil Goyal's One Size Does Not Fit All.

I am in the privileged position of being able to talk with hundreds of students in the course of a school year ranging in age from 8 to 18.  I once heard a high school freshman take apart his school's schedule and rebuild it in a way that made sense to every adult in the room, but that had never occurred to them.  I have worked with elementary school students who figured out a better way to get students through a lunch line. I have witnessed middle school students develop curriculum for an Aspirations period that effectively improved the 8 Conditions over the course of the school year.

The simple fact is that students have a point of view that we adults do not. Being willfully ignorant of that perspective is not just to be deaf to those for whom school exists, it is to make oneself less effective as a decision-maker. As we begin another school year, let's do so with ears wide open.

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