The new question of the week—directed toward students—is:
What has been your best experience in the classroom, and what action or actions did a teacher take to help you make it happen (if they did)? Please be specific. What can other teachers learn from this experience?
I’ve previously shared responses to a similar question at Students Share Their Best School Experiences and What We Can Learn From Them.
I think those answers—and the ones appearing in this post—are so insightful that I’ve decided to make this a “recurring” question.
If you’re a K-12 teacher, and would like to have your students write 200-400 word responses to this questions, send the best ones to me at email@example.com (along with an email or a copy of one from the parent/guardian saying, “I give permission for my child’s essay to be published in Education Week”). If we agree they are publication-worthy, I’ll be happy to use them. I’ll accept contributions anytime over the next 12 months.
By the way, you can see many previous contributions from students that have appeared here at Student Voices.
Several of my students have written today’s responses:
‘Care About Us as People’
Julianna Eakle is a junior at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:
My best classroom experience was when I was in 11th grade. I was having some tough times in my personal life, and this teacher helped me through it all. During this time, my brother, who had previously gone to the school, had to move due to these problems, and I had a really hard time adjusting to him not being at home as well as at school. He had asked this teacher to promise to always look out for me and always check up on me.
This promise was made when I was in 10th grade, and this teacher has never failed to fulfill it. It was a great experience for me because this teacher is close to my brother and I, and he knew how much I missed him. Even out of the classroom, on the track, he would always tell me something my brother had told him, and it would make me sad, yet determined.
My teacher helped make it a great experience, because still to this day whether I look down or not, he always makes sure I’m OK.
Teachers can learn from this story that it’s important for us students to feel that you care about us as people.
‘He Listened to My Rants’
Vincent Xiong is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:
The best experience in my education career is back in freshman year. The reason why it was fun was because we had to sing in class but in Hmong. The song could have been a Hmong or a translated Hmong song. This helped me because it helped me gain more confidence and I am kind of into singing now but my voice is bad and raspy.
This teacher also helped me talk about my feelings to him one on one without any judgment, and he listened to my rants when I needed someone to talk to. It wasn’t like he would just be like, “OK, mhm, OK, I see,” he would listen and actually give more insight on the problem I am having.
Teachers can learn from this that it’s important to create fun opportunities in class and to listen to us.
‘Believe in Your Students’
Anniyah Rhone is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:
My best classroom memory would have to be when I was in the 8th grade and we had our 8th grade award ceremony where they would award students academic achievements. I remember I sat in the back row with my friends, and one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Carr, convinced me to dress up for this particular event.
I had received an award for the honor roll and for another one of my classes, but at the end of the ceremony, the principal gave out the principal’s award to a boy and a girl from the 8th grade class. She began to talk about how the student was very good in all of their classes and how she was very caring and helpful to the people around campus. “How did she do all of these wonderful things?” I vividly remember asking myself.
Lo and behold, she was talking about me, and I received that award with one of my oldest friends. I chose this moment because it was the first time that I realized that I make a difference in people’s lives and that I am worth something. I have always had a hard time believing that I would be somebody or that people would notice me for the work I put in and not the jokes that I tell. This was the first time that people saw me as Anniyah and not Shamira’s little sister. This was the first time that I started believing in myself.
Ms. Carr made the experience better because she came up to me and she told me that she was proud of me and that she always knew that I would achieve great things and that it was just a matter of time before everyone else saw that. This is the experience that started my journey to loving myself.
Teachers can learn from this that it’s important to believe in your students and what they are capable of doing and to let them know that.
‘We Sometimes Communicated in Spanish’
Vanessa Pedraza Ruiz is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:
My best experience in a classroom was when I was a 3rd grader. It was the first couple of weeks of school, and I knew absolutely nobody. I had just moved into the area from 30 minutes away. My social skills at the time weren’t the best as I was an only child at the time. I was very timid and not the most talkative person at that age. Keep in mind that I was part of the small number of Hispanic children in my classroom.
Everyone in my class seemed to know each other very well. Then there was me, usually isolated from everyone because I didn’t know anyone. At first, my 3rd grade year seemed to not start off greatly, but then a student-teacher, Ms. Perez, was introduced to the class. By the last name, I knew she was Hispanic.
At first, I did not really talk to her, but I built up the courage to actually introduce myself to her. She was very nice and she started a conversation with me. We sometimes communicated in Spanish. I surprisingly felt comfortable talking to her. Because I felt comfortable being around her, I often participated in class discussions and in activities. She eventually helped me become more social around everyone, and I eventually started making a couple of new friends. Long story short, my 3rd grade student-teacher helped me have a great experience in her classroom.
Educators can learn from this experience that having teachers who “look like” their students can help us.
He Was ‘Teaching Us History With His Stories’
Joanna Medrano-Gutierrez is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:
My best classroom experience happened when I was in 6th grade. I remember it had been a really hot day, almost at the end of the school year. By this time, my teacher obviously knew what a loud and disruptive class we were, and he had adapted perfectly. Many of the boys in my class always tried to get him distracted to try and waste class time by getting him to talk about his life, and I guess he caught on to this fact pretty quickly.
We had just come back from lunch, so all of us children were sweaty and very much whining about the heat, and so, we were in no mood for learning history. So, that day a boy decided that we needed to get our teacher to waste time with one of his stories. My teacher played along and started to tell us about how when he was younger, just a bit older than we were at the time, he was in a play that ended horribly. I don’t quite remember what he said, all I remember is what happened a few days later.
It was now Friday, later that week, the class had fully expected that since we hardly learned anything that week, we weren’t going to have our usual biweekly quiz. We were so wrong. I could only stare at the stack of papers, and he passed out the quizzes. What are we supposed to do? We barely learned anything this week. Those were my thoughts. Our teacher explained that we could do it, we HAD to do it. So, we all started the test. We got through the math and science part pretty easily. But I was really surprised to find out that I could answer all of the history questions. My teacher had been teaching us history with his stories that we thought were wasting time! Most of my classmates and I had a good laugh along with our teacher. We all knew we deserved it, but, hey, most of the class passed that quiz.
Educators can learn from this story that sometimes you have to be very creative to help us learn what you want to teach us.
Kayla Chang is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:
My best experience in a classroom was when I was in 7th to 8th grade (both years). Band class was my favorite class of the day because my other classes were boring. It was a great experience because I learned how to play an instrument and it made me learn a whole different language (music language). It was an amazing experience because it made me get out of my comfort zone and perform some short songs solo during class (for practice), and I actually went to a music festival called Golden Empire where I performed in front of a judge and actually got a medal for it.
My teacher helped make it great because she was really friendly and lenient on homework, which was to practice your instrument for a certain amount of time. She was really supportive and never forced people to play their instrument if they weren’t feeling OK.
One thing teachers can learn from this is that if you want students to move from their “comfort zone,” it’s important to support us, focus on the important stuff, and be flexible on what’s not that important. And pay attention to when we are not emotionally ready to learn.
Thanks to Julianna, Vincent, Anniyah, Vanessa, Joanna, and Kayla for contributing their thoughts!
Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.
You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.
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