Needless to say, I was both intrigued and horrified by Paul's comment. My initial question was one of genuine interest... how can we make school better? Please tell me Paul! I was excited and interested. Within moments though, I was consumed by sadness and concern because I couldn't help but think that all our children may feel like their voices are meaningless within the school experience.
Determined to stay focused on the positive, I asked Paul to explain to me what, from his perspective, would make school a better place for all kids and here is what Paul came up with...
- Eliminate homework or at least keep it to a minimum each night. Kids work hard in school all day so when they get home, they need time to play, relax, be with their families and even just think about their day and reflect on what happened! Kids should not be doing hours of homework, especially if no on actually checks it at school. If kids are expected to spend their time outside of school doing homework, then teachers should check it. If homework is a must, then don't give too much of it - that just stresses everyone out at home!
- Give kids more time to work together in school. School work and learning is always so much better when we get to work in partnerships or small groups. I love working with a partner because it makes learning more fun and gives me a space to share my ideas. Also, when I work with a partner, I never feel embarrassed to ask a question about what we are doing, especially if I am confused.
- Let me do research about the things that I am most interested in! For example, I am really interested in Marvel and DC characters (especially the villains) so maybe I could research their histories and do a presentation using some form of technology or I could create my own comic book. Whatever the topic, I think us kids can figure out a way to connect it back to the different subjects in school.
- I had no interest in studying the Sugar Act for social studies but it was assigned to me so I had no choice. This is often a problem for us kids because no one really asks us what we want to do and why we want to do it. Things could be so much better if schools and teachers let students have a choice in some of the things they have to learn about in school! Who doesn't like to have choices?
- School needs to be fun because when we are having fun and laughing together we feel better about ourselves and we could do anything. For example, let me bring my iTouch to school to help me learn - not only will that be fun for me but it will also help me learn. I think this is the most important one - school needs to be fun for everyone!
As I listened to Paul and took notes on what he shared, I found myself shaking my head along in agreement. You see, as a doctoral student, I saw ways that my school experience could be improved by implementing some of Paul's suggestions. I also started to think about myself as the Lead Learner of Cantiague Elementary - how could Paul's suggestions help us at Cantiague? I am not quite sure of the answers but one thing I am certain of is that I want our children, starting with Paul, to always feel like their voices are heard and valued - that, in itself, can make school a better place. So, moving forward, don't forget to hear the things emanating from the mouths of babes because the suggestions our kids make can most definitely improve the school experience for everyone!