Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Opinion

Listen to the Children

By Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers — September 28, 2014 3 min read

The 21st century educator’s focus and calling is to be sure that schools are safe places for children to spend their days. We want children to know themselves as learners, to become engaged in problem solving, collaboration, communication, to learn how to treat others, while learning the values that sustain our democracy. Students come to learn to read stories that along the way become literature. They read biographies of great women and men and become readers of non-fiction. They write in a myriad of genres, solve mathematical problems, learn the basics in science, history, physical fitness, art, music, and technology. They come to learn and become part of a community.

We listen to the research, the thought leaders, community members, boards of education, business, mental health and health care providers. But, someday, we need to remember that the children also have something to say. There is value to listening to the children. Here, we are thinking about four.

Recently, Ellen Degeneres hosted a 5-year-old phenom named Noah Ritter who had been discovered by a reporter at the Wayne County Fair in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Interviewed by the news reporter when at that fair, Noah seemed fond of the word “apparently” and used it in almost every sentence. After the news report went viral, Ellen saw it and wanted to interview him on her show. During the interview she asked him about Kindergarten. At 2:20 minutes into this heartwarming video, Noah describes his experience.

I think they are holding me for 11 hours. I felt like I was in prison for 10 days. Five days, that’s a week. Ten days, a year.” One five-year-old’s perception of Kindergarten that offers a window into the Kindergarten experience; it is the first of thirteen years in which educators keep trying desperately to provide a wholesome and enriching learning environment. Noah’s classroom may be wonderful but there are some for whom it, indeed, might feel like prison. That matters.

After the shooting death of 18-year-old, Michael Brown, in Ferguson Missouri, Another child, 11-year-old Marquis Govan, spoke in front of the St. Louis County Council on August 19th, and said,

The people of Ferguson, I believe, don’t need tear gas thrown at them. I believe they need jobs. I believe the people of Ferguson, they don’t need to be hit with batons. What they need is people to be investing in their businesses.

Speaking without notes, this youngster, being raised by his great-grandmother, spoke with intelligence, confidence, and insight. Children like Marquis are sitting in our classrooms also. That matters.

And ,then, there are the children of Adrian Peterson. One, a child he never really knew, will never get to Kindergarten because he died at the age of two when shaken to death by the boyfriend of the boy’s mother. Now, another of Adrian Peterson’s sons, a four year old who was hit by his father with a switch to the extent that the law found he met the standard for reckless or negligent injury to a child. This four year old is headed to our classrooms as well. That matters.

Children bring with them, into our schools, life stories. We might think they hadn’t lived enough to have a lot to say but they do. Actually, these stories and every other child’s story are all that matter. Our role is to add to those stories. Our questions are what is it we want to add, can we and how? Tyrese Ruffin, the two year old, will tragically never come to school but the others will. Teachers, leaders, and everyone who is in engaged in trying to improve schools need to hear their stories, otherwise how can we hope to meet their needs and include them as learners?

Welcomed into our schools and classrooms are children who can express their distain for the imposed routines and structure, who have insight into the social problems our nation faces and who remain engaged in understanding them. We have children who come from homes in which hands hurt and there are no arms to hug fear away from the little ones. Noah’s and Marquis’ pictures and videos are shared as we enjoy their talent and offer them our encouragement. Against his mother’s appeals for sensitivity and compassion, the four year old Peterson child is having pictures of his scared legs shared with all of us. Who knows the additional impact those pictures will have on him? He needs us because, in his life, for sure, we will matter.

Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or Email.

The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 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.


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.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
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.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read