Opinion
Education Opinion

A Message From Education Nation: Listen to Me! Love Me!

By Susan Graham — October 03, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I have mixed feelings about Education Nation’s panel with students.

First of all, I wonder if these six young people, only three of which are currently enrolled in P-12 schools, are really a clear reflection of student perspective. And while his contributions to education are admirable, I didn’t really understand why a professional athlete was included in the panel group. At times it seems that Ann Curry’s questions tended to lead the students to endorse certain positions and as she summarized, she seemed to do a great deal of interpreting what they said. But eventually, the young people began to talk more freely. As they sort of took control of the discussion, they spoke from their hearts; and when they did that, do you know what their conversation centered around? Their teachers.

Lisa Neilsen at The Innovative Educator summarized the panel in as 20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education. I acknowledge that she may have imposed her own perspective in identifying what the top twenty points were; but having watched the panel myself, she wasn’t far off.

Since Curry took some liberties in directing the conversation and Neilsen took some liberties in summarizing as well, I’ve taken the liberty of rearranging her list by categories and here’s my take on the list. Here’s how I sorted what these young people had to say:

About Community: The community should become more involved in schools Even if you don't want to be a teacher, you can offer a student an apprenticeship. About Curriculum and Instruction: We learn in different ways and at different rates Teaching by the book is not teaching, it's just talking. Us 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. We appreciate it when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype. Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music. 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. About Teachers: I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me. Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class. Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams. We need more than teachers. We need life coaches. You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling. Tell me something good that I'm doing so that I can keep growing in that. When you can feel like a family member it helps so much. Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to. You need to love a student before you can teach a student. About Reform: I have to think critically in college, but your tests don't prepare me to do that. Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas, including teacher evaluations. We do the tests to make teachers look good and the school look good, but we know they don't help us learn what's important to us.

The list was both encouraging, heartbreaking at the same time. These kids know what they need and can articulate it. They want education to be relevant to the world in which they live. And they want to make that world a better place.

But above everything else, they talked about teachers. Specifically, those teachers who make a difference. One was named Mrs. Murphy and they all had a Mrs. Murphy in their life. They all identified the importance of a relationship with teachers who acknowledged students as people; who listen and care about the dreams of those student/people; and who help students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to realize those dreams. These are not the ambitions or dreams of education pundits, policymakers, school administrators, or those teachers. They are the dreams of students themselves, just like those on the stage---whether the dream was to be a builder, a dramatist, a business owner, a president, a journalist, or a teacher. One young man said “Every student has a dream and with the right teacher, they can get as close to dream possible.”

And the interesting thing is that they saw teachers as being powerful enough to help them do that. What power! What trust! Students believe their teachers can help them make their dreams come true. Or perhaps even more important, since most of us don’t realize the full extent of our dreams, some meaningful adaptation of their dreamscape--a viision balanced by reality. Why? Because they know their teachers and their teachers know them. “You have to love a student before you can teach a student.” It is a breathtaking, if, perhaps, unrealistic expectation, but I believe that it is the inspiration that lead most teachers to invest their career in the classroom.

Don’t decisionmakers realize that the possibility of that impact is what motivates us? That we push back against some policies not because we’re afraid of accountability but because we believe that our first accountability is to our students and their dreams? I am not saying that teachers are all knowing, but I have to wonder, “Can policymakers really know what’s best for students if they do not love them as individuals, and how can they love them if they do not look into their individual faces, listen to their personal thoughts, and share their unique dreams?”

Trust their teachers to know them, to love them, and to help them accomplish their dreams. Students do and they know us.

The opinions expressed in A Place at the Table are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP