Sunday, January 26, 2014

What students say when they think we're not listening...

Who am I kidding?  I believe they don't think we EVER listen.  And some of the quotes I share later will prove it.

Let me back up and explain a little first.  This morning, I saw "Miss Night" (@happycampergirl on Twitter) share a number of deep thoughts in quick succession.  They caught my eye, so I looked more closely at her tweets and saw what was unfolding around her, in a coffee shop in Canada.

Here was her first tweet on the subject:
"Coffeeshop. Eavedropping on HS students discussing what makes a great teacher. FASCINATING. #edchat"

And then the things they started to say.  Oh my.  Mind = blown.  Turns out these two kids were about 16, probably high school juniors.  No adult was leading the conversation.  They were just sharing what they thought about school, teachers, and the education system in general.  Below, I give their exact words (as recorded by Amy Night), followed at times by my own commentary in italics.

1. "A good teacher is proud of me, FOR me, not proud of me because it makes him look good."

2. "I don't care if a teacher is tough, as long as I know she cares about me."

3. "I want a teacher to say 'Yes, I will help you do great things,' not 'You will do great things because I said so.'"

4. "I want to be at a school where, even a teacher who has never taught me will help me if I ask."

5. "It is not okay for teachers to use us to make themselves look good."

6. "I don't want to be babied. I don't want to be spoon-fed. I want to be CARED about, and ready for the real world."

What's that old line? People don't care how much you know as much as they want to know how much you care?  We've all been there, adults.  We were teens once too.  And we wondered, at times, who cared about our problems, who cared about our feelings, and who cared about our dreams.  Those things haven't changed.

7. "If I want to do something hard, I want my teacher to believe I can do the hard thing, and help me to do it, not tell me I can't."

8. "My teachers should know me well enough to KNOW if my work is my best."

9. "I feel like I deserve more than one chance to master something. It should mean something that I WANT to try again."

10. "Shouldn't individual student success matter more than making the school look good on paper?"

11. "It is not okay for a teacher to give a test with questions about things we have never covered in class. That's an ambush."

So what I'm hearing here is that students really want to do good work.  They want to know what we're expecting, and they want enough chances to get it right.  These kids also seem to be battling something where they go to school, whether it's real or perceived, regarding their successes or failures being credited to (or maybe blamed on) their teachers.

12. "I will work a lot harder for a teacher who cares if she can tell I've been crying."

This just made me sad.  But it's true.  They can be emotional wrecks at this age.  They don't always know how to handle all the stuff going on in their lives.  And often, we adults (parents, teachers, et al.) don't help with all our own drama we push onto them.  Sometimes, it's okay to just stop the school machine and ask what's wrong.

13. "If I get a good mark, I should feel like I LEARNED something, you know? Otherwise I feel like I'm cheating."

14. "Don't tell me something isn't my best if I worked my ass off. It might not be great, but it IS MY BEST. HELP ME."

15. "I wish teachers would let us have more EXPERIENCES without grading. I'd like to just WATCH the play, take it in, not write an essay."

They're questioning something I can't even get some of my own teachers to look inward and question: what do the grades have to do with anything?  Does it tell how much they've learned or how well they jump through our hoops?

16. "My vice principal actually KNOWS me, actually SEES me. It's amazing. It's changing the whole way I see school."

Learn their names.  Even the ones you don't teach.  Make eye contact.  Smile.  Say hello and ask how they're doing, and really mean it.  And stick around to hear the answer.  I think my friend John Docherty is amazing at this.  And not just with the kids.

17. "If I have a friend doing a similar assignment for the same class at another school, why SHOULDN'T we work together?"

18. "They tell us they want us to get along, be respectful to one another, but then they say that helping each other is cheating..."

They come back to this a bit again later.  I have mixed feelings.  I want them to socialize and collaborate their way through their assignments.  I believe in projects over tests and writing over quizzes.  But they need to learn how to be independent learners for some things as well.  Here's one of those places in this set of comments where I would love to have been right there and asked them questions.  After telling them how awesome and wise I thought they were.

19. "I can be good at something that is hard for me. I can love something that is hard for me. Don't discourage me."

Preach it, young person.

20. "It seems like the best teachers teach all the honours & AP classes. Shouldn't the kids who most need help get the best teachers?"

21. "Honours math is 8 kids and the BEST teacher. Remedial math is 30 kids and the newbie. How does this make sense?"

Oh my gosh, yes.  It gets better.

22. "Honestly, the AP kids could teach THEMSELVES, teach EACH OTHER. The kids who struggle NEED A GREAT TEACHER"

23. "It's stupid. They think a great teacher has students with good grades. Shouldn't it be about how kids FEEL in that class?"

24. "We will learn more, and learn better, if we feel GOOD in the class, if we feel like we MATTER, like our lives MATTER."

Yes!  YES YES YES!!! You are important, young people!  Clearly you care about your learning! You care about how your time is being spent! We should love and appreciate that in you!

25. "I can like a teacher who is not my BFF, if he knows how to deliver the material in a way that is INTERESTING."

26. "There are teachers who try to teach the same way to everybody, but how do they not see that that doesn't work?"

Uh oh.  Wisdom bomb....incoming!

27. "If you don't know me, if you don't get to know how I think, how I work, how I feel, how can you POSSIBLY know how to teach me?"

Oh my gosh, I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!

28. "Just because I can't learn the way you are teaching doesn't mean I can't LEARN."

Bracing for impact....

29. "If a teacher keeps teaching the SAME way over and over, even if the student isn't learning, WHO IS THE SLOW LEARNER?"

Damn.  Truth.

30. "I'm a good student. I can get good grades and ace tests without necessarily LEARNING anything. That seems wrong."

31. "You can be good at DOING SCHOOL without necessarily being good at LEARNING or WORKING HARD."

I know.  I've told countless students, teachers, and pretty much anyone who would listen that I was really good at the school game.  I don't remember much that I learned in school, but I know I got good grades.  I was the English major who didn't read any of the books and who still got all As and Bs, and graduated magna cum laude with a 3.7 GPA.  I knew how to "do school."  When I hit real life, I had to start playing a new game, and it's not one I was completely prepared for.

Like I said, when I saw these tweets shooting by in my stream this morning, I knew I had to collect them, harness their power, and share them.  They really just speak for themselves.  These are kids.  They get it.  They want to learn, and they want to be valued.  We can do that, educators.  Stop being a system and start being a human.  I know I'm convicted.


Barb Smith said...

Wow - made me take a deep look at myself. Could I answer proudly that I frequently and naturally do many of these things? I didn't feel so good by the time I finished reading. Thank you. Time to to take of the teacher armor and let the caring person out again.

Mrs. Pierce-Cummings Teaches said...

So encouraged by this post. These girls have confirmed what I've always believed,"love them into learning." It seems a simple concept, but there are those teachers who can't grasp the concept. This conversation should be required reading for teachers at the beginning of each semester. Thanks for sharing this!

gpiercecummings said...

I've always believed that we must "love them into learning." This conversation confirms it.

Melanie R. said...

"I wish teachers would let us have more EXPERIENCES without grading. I'd like to just WATCH the play, take it in, not write an essay."
I wish this also.
Currently in the middle of progress reports. Most teachers at my site spit out a computer-generated report with a numeric score tied to a grade. "77.5% with one worksheet missing to raise your grade." I want to comment on growth and have students discuss their own progress. I want students to love learning, explore their interests, learn to push themselves, and not settle for "I'm done."
I wish you had been there to tell them how wise and great they are too.

Mark Hall said...

Thank you for posting these Diane. It's not rocket science, but sometimes we sure make it seem that way.

Michelle Longo said...

That last bit you said about "doing school" is so true. Students who can do school well, hungover with tear stains no less, shouldn't be overlooked because of AP classes and honor roll status. Straight As don't prepare you for the world.

Xavier D. said...

I think that our school grading system should not be about how you have a 79% and if you turn in this one missing assignment you will go up to a 83%. It should be about the growth a student made in a certain subject and not just about the missing worksheets the student has not done. The students who are in the advanced classes should be able to learn on their own and have the teachers of the advanced class help the students that are not in the advanced classes, but also the students who are in the advanced classes should want to help the students who are not in the advanced classes so they can become more successful than they were before. You can be a straight A student who aces all of their tests and gets good grades without learning anything that the teacher had taught you that day, week, month, or year. The student could be a kid who was a F student in the beginning, but could be in the end the year being a C student and still learn way more than the A student learned that year. The grading system in schools should be based around the growth that the student made that year, and not just about getting straight A’s or turning in the missing assignments that would bring your grade up.

Yoeli S. said...

Just because I can't learn the way you are teaching doesn't mean I can't LEARN."
I agree by that because in social studies some teachers just tell you to read from a textbook and then fill out a worksheet and then they say we are done with that chapter. I can’t really learn everything from the textbook. I learn by teachers making activities that are fun and you could really learn the material that we need to cover.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

I agree with you, Xavier! A student who was failing and brought it up to a C most definitely learned more (and not just in the subject matter, but likely about him- or herself) that the kid who always gets As.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Yoeli, thanks for your comment! I understand exactly what you mean. Nobody needs worksheets. History comes alive when you really dive into it. Textbooks, worksheets, and tests don't make history exciting.

Iliana T. said...

I totally agree with these people. It is totally annoying that we have those letter grades. THEY DON’T MEAN ANYTHING!!!!! What we really take from them: you did your work based on what the teacher wanted.So what. They don’t reflect on what you learned, what skills you’re developing. “Teacher! Teacher! I did what you told me to do teacher!” is an expression my teacher uses to show us that we should try to envelop ourselves in the work because we want to, not because we were told to, which is what learning should be entirely about. The system sucks. There is no freedom of expression there, no artistic vision. The greats are considered great because they were able to learn and do freely, not because they were tied down to what someone told them to do. I’m one of the students that’s good at the school game. I hate it though. It gets so boring.

"If a teacher keeps teaching the SAME way over and over, even if the student isn't learning, WHO IS THE SLOW LEARNER?"

Damn. Truth. Oh yeah, there’s the burn. In this case, who’s the teacher? Like really. Teachers should realize it if the majority of the class doesn’t get the subject, then something’s wrong with the way it’s delivered.

"There are teachers who try to teach the same way to everybody, but how do they not see that that doesn't work?" Not everyone learns the same way. We’re obviously all different. Some of us do things one way and others do it another way, but in the end we all take something out of it. The wisdom these students have is pretty beyond compare. I’m pretty jealous.
And one more thing… "Honours math is 8 kids and the BEST teacher. Remedial math is 30 kids and the newbie. How does this make sense?" How does it make ANY sense AT ALL? It kind of gets all tied back to Martin Luther King Jr. The bias between people, the difference between those who are believed to be “superior” and those who are not. This should totally be turned upside down to put it the RIGHT side up, how we the students believe it should be. It sucks that I can’t vote for this at my age.

Arturo C. said...

Ok first of all I like number 14 because it reminds me of what Ms.Ramsey said, that you could work harder than ever and you’ve learned a whole lot and you still could get a C, that got me thinking on how I keep saying I want A’s & B’s, well turns out I agree with Ms.Ramsey that grades are made to make people feel bad about themselves. And it ain’t about that its how hard you work your ass off. And thats another thing that got me thinking you see I said on my reflection that my teachers, friends, and family see it in me but I keep asking myself do I have it in me? well I figured it out because in basketball everyday i’m getting better and thats because i’m passionate about basketball, so now I say if I can improve in sports I can certainly improve in school. So all that they said gets me thinking about this, of course we can improve but you have to push yourself and work your ass off, and one more thing I also wish that teachers would let us have more experiences without grading. Remember do or do not there is no try.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Iliana, your comments are very eloquent, and it is clear that you have thought about this a lot, and also that you feel passionately about this. It's the kind of angry/annoyed you feel when you know what you're thinking is right and the way things are done is wrong. Know what I mean? Thank you for reading this and sharing your thoughts and feelings. I am hoping that many educators will read this, and that many more students like you will leave your thoughts as well. Keep working hard and learning. Trust me when I tell you that it will pay off big time in the end.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Arturo, thank you for sharing what you think about this. Basketball is your passion, but you see in yourself how you can also apply that enthusiasm to other things, like learning. But if you like to move around a lot and identify the goal and then go for it, then traditional desks-in-rows, sit-still-and-be-quiet education could never work for you. And there's nothing wrong with that. I bet you're the kind of person who learns really well when he's moving. You have a lot to teach the world. Even when it gets frustrating because it seems like the world isn't listening or doesn't seem to understand you, please don't give up. You are the future of this country, and I need you to be ready for when it's your time to be in charge.

Steven Diaz said...

I think this is great adults really tend to think only on grades and don't care about progress because when people get older they start to fear it because they think they will eventually get left behind and to quete my teacher "someone can not work at all and get an A or a B while someone can work really hard and still end up with a C or a D." Even if someone works there but off and gets an A their parents won't care about the work they put into it they only care for bragging rights or if they could keep it up till they graduate from college and get a high paying job. One way media has put the subject of working hard work will apparently get you nowhere was in The Simpsons where they introduced a new character named Frank Grimes who had terrible luck in his life he got abandoned by his family at a young age and was always a hard worker that attended night classes he got a job at the Springfield nuclear power plant and then he meets Homer who was lazy had a better job that payed more a loving family and at one point he was an astronaut so you could guess he was angry at the end of the episode he dies imitating Homer yikes. My point was even media thinks hard work is pointless just a little something to think about.

Maria V. said...

I really do agree with everybody’s comments. What does it really mean to have a letter grade? Why does the letter grade even exist? I don’t know why teachers bother to give us a letter grade, tests, homework, or sheets of paper containing information. Why can’t we learn any other way instead of a textbook and a piece of paper with missing information. We all have different learning styles. Some people learn visually, while others learn hands on. Do we always need to stick with the basic learning style.

12. "I will work a lot harder for a teacher who cares if she can tell I've been crying."
Why can’t some teachers not see how many students work so hard to achieve a letter grade that doesn’t have meaning. I know some teachers will care about the work you did but not the effort or knowledge you did to complete an assignment. How would we see school without the grading system? Would there be any stress if the system stopped?

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Steven, I'm with you on that: it worries me that society seems to sometimes not value hard work, but rather grades or some other kind of status that may or may not have been truly "earned." I don't think I saw that episode of The Simpsons, but I know that Homer and Bart are both caricatures of people who don't like to work hard. However, have you ever noticed how SMART Bart is? Also, if you've ever read Calvin & Hobbes? Calvin doesn't do well in school, but he's clearly very smart and has an incredible imagination. There are many more examples like this in our society's media where intelligence and creativity don't necessarily get recognized or celebrated.

Jose R. said...

I agree to the students who were talking because they gave out good details on how they don’t like the grading system. I also agree that it doesn’t matter if you get a “A” or “F” what matters is that you improve and learn a lot! "They tell us they want us to get along, be respectful to one another, but then they say that helping each other is cheating..." I think its ok to help out your friend as long as you don’t let them copy, they need to learn the ways. "Honestly, the AP kids could teach THEMSELVES, teach EACH OTHER. The kids who struggle NEED A GREAT TEACHER" I truly agree with this statement because they kids who need more help need to have AP teachers to teach them a lot and help out the kids. These high school students made a really good conversation and if they had the same conversation but with a teacher, principal, or the school district owner they would actually here them out and try to change their school. I really think this students have great opinions on schools.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Maria, speaking as a teacher, I think there are two reasons why we stick with this grade-based system. 1. It's the way it has always been. 2. Our bosses make us do it that way because the next level of schooling makes us show "what you learned" by what kind of grades you got.

Neither of these are good enough reasons, because of all the things you said. That's why I think we all need to work on changing it. We can fix a broken system if we all keep fighting against the way things have always been.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Jose, thank you for your comments. I am really glad that you and so many other young people feel that learning is more important than grades. That issue of cheating or copying is so tricky. But I think that if I, as a teacher, want to make sure students do their own BEST work, I need to design assignments and assessments that really find out what they think and have learned. Tests and quizzes don't really do that. A lot of what we put grades on doesn't really do that. You are not a number, and you are not your grades.

Susy said...

All these people speak the truth. A grading system is pointless. I mean, in real life are there grades? Do people grade you on how you speak or how you think? No! That would be completely stupid. (Please pardon my language.)

"12. I will work a lot harder for a teacher who cares if she can tell I've been crying."

That is so true! I know for a fact that all students will work, or try to work, really hard to please teachers that care about them, and prove they do by not just saying it. Also if that teacher is kind, creative, and fun too. Think about it, are students ever encouraged to do what a teacher says if the teacher always yells and nags or acts like an ass to the whole class when their supervisor is not there? I've noticed that my class is not very motivated when things like this happen.

Oh my gosh, I want to just ramble on forever on every single one of these quotes, but I think I've made my point so I'll end my comment here.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

This is a great, brief article that came out today from a teacher who still loves teaching after 29 years, and who is a teacher for all the right reasons!


Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Susy, you're right. In the real world, we don't get grades. We DO have performance evaluations of some kind on whether we do our jobs correctly, and sometimes we do get judged on how we speak or write, both in our work and just by others around us. However, if the outcome is important to you (others' opinions, your reviews on the job, etc.), you will strive to excel. Not because of a grade, but because you are satisfied by a job well done.

Ashley G. said...

"If you don't know me, if you don't get to know how I think, how I work, how I feel, how can you POSSIBLY know how to teach me?" I agree with this one because I know that some teachers have to get to know students to teach them well. The teacher always teach their own way how they can understand it, but what about the students they are the ones that have to learn, some students understand it and some don’t. The teacher should get to know her students how they think, work, and feel. So the teacher can know how to teach her students.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Ashley, I love your comment. My favorite part of being an educator is getting to know my students. And at the beginning of the year or the new semester with new students always feels really awkward until I feel like I have gotten to know them. Know what I mean?

Steven Diaz said...

Ya I've read Calvin and Hobbes I like it every year I tend to read at least three Calvin and Hobbes books. Yes I know Bart is smarter in a lot of ways as he is able to trick a lot of people in Springfield. Oh and Grimes appeared in the episode Homer's enemy from season eight.

Daisy alvarez said...

I agree that the letter grades are really not important. I'm not really sure why they even give us a grade. The important thing is how much you learned and how well you learn. We can't learn that well In a text book or write in a piece of paper. I would rather have more activities than just sit there and read chapters to chapters every day.

Jesus M. said...

"I want to be at a school where, even a teacher who has never taught me will help me if I ask." Doesn’t this just sound great? Instead of being at a school where you are limited to only your teacher(s), you have unlimited access to the teachings of every single teacher that teaches at your school. Imagine every single teacher being able to expand your knowledge. Not just the teachers you are assigned to, but every teacher at your school.
"There are teachers who try to teach the same way to everybody, but how do they not see that that doesn't work?" This type of teaching has been going on for what seems like the beginning of time. If it has been going on for so long, and hasn’t had the best success, why do mentors, teachers, instructors, (etc…), still teach like this? I can’t seem to answer that question. Could it be that the teacher simply wants to speed by the lesson, and claim (s)he “taught” it, and then blame the students for not “learning” the lesson?
"Just because I can't learn the way you are teaching doesn't mean I can't LEARN.” An extremely relevant and helpful quote to what I just talked about. A teacher’s way of teaching, does not always compute with a student’s way of learning.
"You can be good at DOING SCHOOL without necessarily being good at LEARNING or WORKING HARD." It seems like school isn’t the best place to go if you want to learn something new nowadays. That is sad because school is a place to go learn and be prepared. Now it just seems like a place where you try and listen to the lecture, and then do some test to get some grade. So basically, you can do school but not learn anything from school these days.

Rubi Mendez said...

I agree with these teenagers. What does the grade A+ even mean? I admit I am one of those students that always wants an A to go show off to my parents. The question that has been running through my head is ,does A+ actually mean you are an amazing student? Does it mean you go above and beyond and work your butoff to learn and show progress? I am pretty sure that if there were no grades students would work harder. Why do I believe this? Well the only reason students try or do work or assignments is to get that letter grade A. If there were no letter grades students would have to have a reason to work and the reason they would only have left is because they WANT to.I have heard one of my teachers say, “ The grade system is only made to make the A+ students feel happy and the C-F feel horrible about themselves.” And I totally agree. I also love the way the teenagers say that just because we can’t learn the way teachers teach us does NOT mean that we can’t learn. Many times I have heard teachers tell their students that they don’t learn the subject because they don’t try or because they don’t care. Have they ever asked themselves maybe it is me. Maybe I should have many more ways to teach than just one way. I am pretty sure those students feel horrible when a teacher says that. I know I would. I really understand these teenagers . I wish I could have been there to be able to have a conversation with them.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Thanks, Steven, for the information about the Simpsons episode. We have a bunch of Calvin and Hobbes books at home. My son just turned ten. What do you think? Perfect age to turn him on to C&H?

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Daisy, I agree. It's way more fun (we educators call it engaging and/or motivating) to actually DO something related to the stuff you're learning than to just read about what somebody else did, right? That's why labs and field trips, especially overnight ones, always stand out in your memory the clearest. You remember what you were fully immersed in and involved with. The stuff you do sitting in desks in rows? Not so much.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Jesus! Are you sure you're not already out of college and doing amazing things in the world? You're wise beyond your years if you're an 8th grader! I have a lot of thoughts about what you shared:
1. At my school, we have something we call advisory. It's kind of what we do instead of a homeroom. In most cases, and advisor is matched with the same group of kids for all four years of high school. (They also do this at our middle school for the 3 years kids are there, but they get new groups in HS.) As a student's advisor, I am something like a parent without being related, and I am not really a teacher to that student, although one of my advisees is actually in a class I teach right now. We meet as an advisory once a week, plus I check in on them at a class meeting another time each week. My nine advisees are seniors right now, and I feel so great getting to see them start off on the roads to their futures and I still get to give them advice or just listen sometimes. Because we have this program, all our teachers take an interest in students' lives as a habit now.
2. It's true that many teachers are under a lot of pressure to get through material rather than to actually teach kids. Would you believe that in some schools and districts, they actually have pacing guides? It's like, "today is January 28th, so we are all on page 157 in the math book." How ridiculous is that? Is everyone the exact same? Are we all ready for page 157 at the same time? (And don't even get me started on textbooks.)
3. In some places, they also have what is called "scripted teaching." That means the teacher isn't even allowed to teach differently or come up with his or her own ways to teach something. There is literally a SCRIPT they have to read to the kids to take them through steps, directions, material, etc. It makes me feel physically sick to even think about it.
4. A lot of people say that kids nowadays are good at coming to school and switching off, then going back home and seeking out what they want to learn, at a library, on the Internet, through organizations or clubs, and even through other adults or their peers who mentor them. Schools tell kids what to learn, as well as when and how. But true learning has to come from some spark or interest that catches the person's enthusiasm. There's that motivation I mentioned earlier.
What kinds of things are YOU motivated to learn by yourself, whether they teach it at school or not? You and your classmates might like the website

Erick Espinoza said...

I think that this topic would not be brought up by most teachers, because it is true. For example, the way teachers teach students can be wrong, for probably most of the class. Also, the grading system is out of date, and should be updated to what we know about education. The way the students talked about a real world topic, was awesome.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Rubi, I know just what you mean. When I was a student in school, grades did motivate me. They were, in part, based on what I really learned. But they were sometimes just based on my compliance or obedience. Back then, I was a pretty obedient person and I did what was expected of me. I didn't really question much. But as I got older, and I learned to see that most people didn't really learn or succeed that way, it really made me think. I know how bad I would feel when I worked hard and didn't get the grade I wanted. Imagine what that is like for people who never seem to get good grades, no matter how hard they work! In that case, grades must not be about hard work and lessons learned. My son is someone who works pretty hard and still doesn't get amazing grades. We've told him at home that we don't care about his grades as much as we care about his happiness, and that he is enjoying school and learning new things. We know he'll find an interest and we'll support it and he'll be a successful adult. It's just all these years of school he still has ahead of him that we're going to have to struggle through.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Hi Erick! I understand how discouraging it can feel that teachers seem not to be willing to hear this. But I want to tell you that I have shared this with a lot of teachers, including at my school, and many have come to me personally and thanked me for telling them about what students think. Believe it or not, most teachers care a lot about student learning. But we don't always know how to let students tell US how they learn best. Some teachers don't get the freedom in their schools to try new things. Some teachers feel like they don't have the resources, like technology tools, to do things differently. Some teachers are set in their ways and think, "if it was good enough for me when I was in school, it's good enough for these kids." Sometimes they just forget what made them want to become teachers in the first place. But there are a lot of us teachers out there, like me and Ms. Ramsey and a bunch of our friends, who love to hear what kids think. We want to teach less and learn more...FROM you guys! Because we have a lot to learn, and you have a lot to teach us. So don't give up hope. I have faith that it's going to get better in the world of education.

maria cortes said...

"If a teacher keeps teaching the SAME way over and over, even if the student isn't learning, WHO IS THE SLOW LEARNER?"

I totally agree with this quote because who are the SLOW learners its the TEACHERS. Teachers are the slow learners for the reason that they don’t take their time to know their students and learn our strengths and weakness. If teachers really want to help us get to know us first and you can observe how well we can do this specific skill or what skill we still need to improve on. Furthermore, I think teachers can find other ways how to teach students because various students learn differently and currently these days we have modern technology that teachers can use to help students improve in their academic skills. Instead of reading out of a history book and worksheet students can dress up for a day act like if they were in that time of period or read primary documents from people during those time periods. In addition, you can also have a field trip and learn more about that specific type of place that you are currently learning. Also in middle schools these days we get progress reports to see how well we are doing currently in the trimester. To be honest I really really don’t like progress reports because what does an “A” or “C” mean it doesn’t tell you anything it’s meaningless. How can a letter grade reflect how you are doing, the only thing that its doing is separating everyone into categories. If I were the president of the United States I would not allow progress reports because what you really want is a paragraph from your teacher to reflect what you are improving on and what you need to work on so your parents can also see the huge improvement you worked hard for. I also agree that instead of having tests the teachers could assign projects to reflect what we learned and also quizzes can be turned into writing pieces that can blow your mind. I can also see the point of view these students think in this quote"Honestly, the AP kids could teach THEMSELVES, teach EACH OTHER. The kids who struggle NEED A GREAT TEACHER" Since these AP students are smart they can teach themselves and each other different types of skills to their classmates or the AP students can teach the students that are struggling skills that it can help them understand that specific subject. Students that struggle NEED A GREAT TEACHER because with a great teacher these students can work their butts off and work hard to be at the level that they need to be and taught differently not like their previous teachers taught them over and over the same thing but never understood that specific material.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Maria, I really appreciate your comments. I think that many teachers have been conditioned to feel like they're supposed to know everything. But changing your style means admitting maybe you don't know everything and are willing to learn. In some schools, teachers aren't allowed to admit they don't know it all. (Which I think is dumb.) I love your idea about banning progress reports that just show grades and don't explain anything. Our school uses comments to help tell how kids are doing. I have to say that I disagree with one thing it sounds like you were saying: AP kids aren't the only smart ones. And just because they're in AP classes, that doesn't mean they're smart. You're smart too, whether you take AP classes or not. I can tell from the way you write and express yourself.

Wayne Thompson said...

All we teachers have to learn is... to listen...

Yovani Reyes said...

Why were letter grades invented.I think letter grades are pointless.I always say i want to get A's and B's but all i really have to do is work hard and learn something.Its not about getting good grades its about learning something like how Ms Ramsey said.

Pedro Suchite said...

"I wish teachers would let us have more EXPERIENCES without grading. I'd like to just WATCH the play, take it in, not write an essay." I think this is really true because I think experiencing for example a play is much better than writing an essay that I probably don’t care about.I also think that the thought and understanding is more important than whether you can fill out a worksheet.
"I can like a teacher who is not my BFF, if he knows how to deliver the material in a way that is INTERESTING."I think this is important because their might be teachers out there who I don’t like but if I see that they can teach interestingly and cause me to actually use my brain and learn a lot I will prefer them than a teacher who teaches in the traditional boring way.
I think times have changed and that school isn’t just about getting good grades.I think students should be prepared with real world skills by the time they graduate high school.I think teachers should promote discussions and thinking in between students.I think it should get to the point where students don’t feel like they’re being forced to learn but want to learn and be at school.I believe everyone is capable of learning it is just that students are labeled by a letter grade and those students go their whole time in school believing that and think that they are inferior to the students that get A’s.The lower grade students think they are not as good because they don’t have A’s but that is not true.That is why I think the letter grade system should be removed and changed.I think a paragraph tailored specifically to a student is better and shows more about the student than an A.Seriously what does that even mean?How is a letter supposed to sum up who you are as a student and show how much you have progressed and learned.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Yovani, I am glad you place more value on hard work than on grades. When you're all 35, no one will care what kind of grades you got. But they will care if you work hard and care about your work.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Pedro, you're right. A letter is just a label, and it often isn't an accurate one. We should avoid labeling people and instead discuss their strengths and good habits. Think about it: does an A at one school even mean the same as an A at another school? What about schools where teachers give extra credit points for bringing in boxes of tissues? What if I can't afford to buy tissues to bring to class? Somehow I am going to be labeled as not as smart because I didn't get those extra points?

Gene Tognetti said...

6. "I don't want to be babied. I don't want to be spoon-fed. I want to be CARED about, and ready for the real world."

...that one really stuck out for me. I was just having a conversation with a fellow educator yesterday about the unreal number of missed opportunities in some classrooms today... Some teachers feel the need to do exactly that... spoon feed the kids. And, as this student said, that approach does NOT help prep for any real-world of which I'm familiar.

We need to keep supporting those teachers that don't know how to make their students' classroom experience more enriching. I sure wish there was a magic bullet, but it boils down to good old fashioned hard work, and lots of great examples and demonstrations of 'supportive' teaching, I think. Fortunately, I think more and more teachers ARE understanding more engaging, student-centered approaches every day, so I'm hopeful.

Thanks for putting this together Diane! I'm going to re-post to !

Anonymous said...

I really agree with these teenagers. First of all, I think they feel how some people feel here at Mckinley. Maybe students don't like school because they don't like how some teachers teach. I've noticed in my classes that some students fall asleep during class. My point is that teachers need to teach in an interesting way. Like hands on activities. 7th grade was the best school year ever because we did hands on activities, and the teacher made learning fun and interesting. Another thing I have to say is that I think that some teachers get excited and to zoom through the chapters of the book or whatever thing were teaching. Then the teacher moves on to the next chapter without any of the students learning anything. For some students they need time to learn the material. Like me, on somethings I need time to learn the material , but some things I learn in a blink of an eye. On an unrelated note I want to talk about grades. Today the teacher was talking about how grades are meaningless, and that the are to make students feel great or feel bad. I agree with the teenager that said that what if we had some work that was not graded. Students either love grades or they hate them. The main point about this is that some teachers say " you better get your act together or you're the one that's gonna be working at a minimum wage job when you grow up". Maybe Some teachers are the problem that students don't like school. Maybe Some teachers should change their way if teaching because at this rate students are going to be working at a minimum wage job in the future.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Hey there Gene! Thanks for your thoughts on this. As you and I both know, there are a lot of us educators out there trying to help the teachers who don't feel confident changing their style. The conferences we attend, and programs like MERIT, are just some of the ways teachers can begin to see that there are a lot of resources out there. Also, the folks who seem like they have it all together are in fact the ones who just admit they don't know everything and can always learn.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Abe, what you're touched on with your comment is something that always troubles me: when teachers (knowingly or unknowingly) discourage and insult students. Sometimes it's through grades, because the teacher is focusing of stuff that tested things it was hard for some of the students to learn in the way the teacher taught it. Sometimes it's through comments like the example you gave. Who wants to be told their future doesn't look hopeful? Instead, I hope teachers can stop focusing on the negative and open up students' mind to the positive possibilities. It's just like making rules that are positive rather than negative: "Please walk" instead of "Don't run" and "Use respectful language" instead of "No swearing, name calling, etc." If I am a learner, help me focus on what I CAN do rather than telling me what I can't and assuming the worst of me. Right?

Anonymous said...

From Ruby L.
"Don't tell me something isn't my best if I worked my ass off. It might not be great, but it IS MY BEST. HELP ME." I couldn’t agree less. I was always told that my work was nothing compared to my classmates, and I had to improve. OKAY then. Tell me how to improve. Tell me what you don’t like about my work. Show me what you expect. Don’t just tell me to “improve.” What? Do you want me to improve at eating, or maybe singing? I need to know what exactly you want me to improve on, and guess what? I still won’t have it down the next day. I need you to sit down with me for a couple minutes a day, and i’ll improve in a matter of days. I’m not going to improve if you compare me to other students. In fact I’ll probably do worse than I did before.

"We will learn more, and learn better, if we feel GOOD in the class, if we feel like we MATTER, like our lives MATTER." As a young teen I always ask myself “What would happen if I just disappeared.” I never felt like I mattered through elementary school. I thought everyone hated me and everyone would be better without me. Then I entered Middle school and met my wonderful teachers. They’ve sat down with me, and told me I could do anything if I wanted too. I believed every word coming out of their mouths. Shortly I started feeling like maybe I did matter, and I could do an excellent job if I wanted to. Guess what my grades went up fast, but something that still haunts me are the words of my previous teachers. They didn’t believe in me, so I didn’t believe I should make them happy by working my ass off. I never got my teachers gradated, so I just gave up on trying to make them happy. I'm a human-beaning I have feeling too.

(P.s. while writing this I wished all the teachers that didn't believe in me saw me now. I bet they would be in for a surprise. I'm not that little girl that hid in the corners of the class trying to shut out the world. I wish they saw that I don't care about their opinions anymore. Their negative comments no longer affect me. I know I can do ANYTHING if I put my 100% on it.)

Gino C. said...

I agree with number four, because some students need help, but they don't say anything and it's hard with a whole class full of students and the teacher is helping someone else, because if no one says anything the teacher is going to assume that no one needs help. Also students assume that if they don't say anything they'll think that help will come to them, but they need to speak up. Some kids live in noisy places so they can't concentrate, I understand that, but there's this after school thing called "homework club" and it allows students to do homework and if they need help the teacher will be there to help but, there are some schools that don't do that and that's a problem

Steven Diaz said...

I think 10 is a great age to start reading Calvin and Hobbes I personally started around 11 the series is good for people of all ages and if I may suggest a book series to read it would be Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson both touch on stuff for more mature audiences like death or loss of friends but they are good book series with some good humor and it's better to prepare children for middle school and the future because to be honest these years are not fun and will contain a lot of it as loved ones die and people change it's better to not shelter a child as children who are tend to not be ready for the cold and hard future.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Ruby L., I am so sorry that your teachers didn't encourage you or believe in you when you were younger, but I am really happy to hear that you're working with teachers now who recognize your talents and the huge value you bring to your class and school. I'm glad you focus on the present and your future. You will make a big contribution to our world, in fact I believe you already are. Even your negative experiences are something that helped you learn and grow, and maybe you can use them to help others who feel similarly because you can understand how they feel.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Gino, I get what you mean. That's why I like to have classes in which everyone is welcomed and even encouraged to help each other whenever possible. Not only does it mean a student who needs help doesn't have to wait for the teacher to be available, it helps everyone. The best way to learn is to teach someone else. So when students help each other, they really help themselves too. Homework club is a good idea to give students a peaceful place to work, but like you said, it doesn't exist everywhere.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Steven, thank you for writing back. You have a lot of wisdom for your age. It's true that middle school can be a difficult time for most people. So much changes in a person's life, and they have family and friends who get older or maybe get sick and pass away. I will look into getting my son some books you mentioned and see if he enjoys reading them. Thanks!

Steven Diaz said...

You're welcome about the recommendations. I read a lot so it was fun to recommend something instead of being recommended by someone else oh and question why is it that adults don't think some types of literature isn't actually literature examples comics, manga, graphic novels just a thought since I read these also.

Teresa N. said...

Letter grades have been in my life,but what exactly does that mean?Am I a student that has learned something new and is excellent,or a student who just complete essays and quizzes correctly without even remembering if I know the material?I,personally,want a report whether I am improving in my understanding and learning in my classes.Reading out of a textbook can begin our learning,but it's best if we do entertaining activities or games.For example,I learned more about Islam by memorizing some lyrics of a Flocabulary song on Islam.Such changes can help our learning and make school more fun.A letter grade is really nothing,it's just a letter from the alphabet.Our grades should show our parents what our weaknesses are and strengths,not just a some letter.I really appreciate you posting this blog,because most people don't understand that a letter is just a letter in our report cards.And finally,a student who cares for what they do at school is someone who is wanting to achieve their goals and have a better future.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Teresa, I don't know if it will happen while you are still a student, but there are a lot of us out there trying to change the system. Grades often get inflated and don't even represent anything about a student's growth or achievement. I hope you continue to speak your mind and work hard no matter what letters come your way on report cards.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Steven, I think all people can sometimes get snobbish about certain things. Maybe it's music or tv shows and movies. Some people are like that about reading material. If you enjoy it, and you get something out of it, then it's good reading.