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If I had one wish for school . . .

Posted by phourigan on May 25, 2010

I’ve been talking to some students yesterday and today and asked them the question: If had one wish for school it would be . . .?

Three upper school boys offered their opinions in a conversation we had:

– Self prescribed homework.  We should be able to do as much as we need to do. I’d love to eliminate busywork.  There are many times where I have a problem set to do in math, for example, and I get the concept through the first few problems.  I hate it because I then know I have to just finish all the problems to get a good grade.  You have to have limits though – our school should not embrace mediocrity.  Also, optional classes – like in college where you’re not obligated to go but still have to take the test. If you have an A-plus then you could have the option to not attend.  This shows more trust of the student. [He then came up with his own version of the inverted model – lecture at home, problem sets in class!]

– Have students pick quarter long projects that they work on becuase they’re self motivated.

– Approachable teachers and students you feel comfotable with. Someone to talk to about day to day life – not necessarily as a friend, but as someone who make you feel good about coming to school. [What makes a teacher unapproachable?]  Blowing a gasket about things that students has no control over – for example, I have to miss class for crew nationals, and I’m dreading telling the teacher.  I know she’s going to blame me.  You also need to have students you trust as well – this builds community.

My advisory [I had them write it down; everything sic’d]:

– Better computers that don’t take 20 mins for the computers to start up
– I wish there was no homework
– To have [our school] be coed [we’re all boys]
– To have an entire video arcade.  Why?  because we as students work hard for good grades and deserve a chance to cool down
– If I had one wish for school it would be to have another soccer field
– Make [our school] COED
– iPad
– No “dress code” for a dress DOWN.
– More free time
– to have Macs for the MS Lab

I think the comparison is interesting.  The seventh grade students in my advisory focused primarily on what would make school more fun while the upper school boys were really interested in making their learning and their community better.  I don’t know if that’s a result of how I asked the question or if they’re better at interpreting what I’m really asking, or if they just told me what they thought I would want to know.

Even if they’re telling me what they think I want to hear, I’m still impressed.

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4 Responses to “If I had one wish for school . . .”

  1. Bob Irving said

    Yo, Mr Scriddley! Nice post!

    I do think the difference between the older and younger students is no doubt a difference in maturity level. Kids grow up. But I think your older students have some great points — why do all those math problems if you already get it? I knew a really good math teacher who never assigned problems. He pointed out the practice problems and said do what you need to learn it.

    I also would vote for the quarter-long project. Let them learn, and try to get out of the way. I don’t advocate abdicating our roles as adults, but I think in our “inside-the-boxness”, we squeeze the joy of discovery out of learning. As Mark Twain said, “Never let school get in the way of your learning.” At least, I think he said that. If he didn’t, he should have.

    • phourigan said

      Thanks Bob! I agree. Times like these make me proud of our students – they get it, why don’t we? While I do see value in making younger kids practice their skills through reasonable repetitive exercise, someone who is taking an AP class shouldn’t really have the kind of homework we’ve been accustomed to.

      My class next year (8th grade) will have a couple of semester and even year-long projects. I’ll post more about that soon.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. If only more than 19 people could read this.

    • phourigan said

      Thanks Ricardo – the more experience I get in teaching, the more I realize that we can really learn something by listening to our students. They truly appreciate honesty and the times I level with them. I’ve found they’re much more willing to follow my lead if they feel their voice is heard. It’s so hard to wake people up to the fact that there is a revolution taking place in education and we have to get on board. I keep repeating to myself, “We can do better. I can do better.”

      Thanks again for visiting and commenting!

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