What Your Students Really Want

During one of my sub days, I had a class full of terrors. Freshmen boys. They threw paper wads, threw things out the window, made duct tape balls, threw toilet paper, kicked each other, the works. The teacher had left an assignment that they were definitely not caring about and not even willing to attempt. I was trying to think of a way to distract them or at least take up some of the period. It was 4th hour which is our longest period, over an hour long, and right before lunch. Yes, you're right, a dream come true. So I asked the students if they could change anything about our school, what would it be? I thought their answers were very interesting and wanted to share their "creative thinking".

In no particular order, what would you change about this school?

Daily Points
Students complained that they had low grades due to losing their daily points every day. To me, daily points is logical to help control behavior. In their opinion, they are being punished twice for the same mistake. If it doesn't work, why are we still doing it?

Lower Grading Scale
During my entire school career the grading score was universally known as A 90-100, B 80-89, C 70-79, D 60-69, and 60 or below was failing. Now the current grading scale is A 93-100, B 85-92, C 77-84, D 70-77, and failing is 70 and below. A lot of the boys (slackers) said that they could be passing if it wasn't for the higher grading scales. Now obviously, teachers want students to strive for more than just passing. But with all of the other standardized testing and NCLB legislation, it seems like we are making it even harder on ourselves and our students. On the other hand, it does raise the bar which challenges students and pushes them to work harder to still achieve passing status. Also, in the long run, students who are used to earning an A with a 93 in high school may have it a little easier in college where an A is back to 90.

Lowering Grades Due to Absence
This is a new policy where students have a percentage of their final grade deducted according to how many absences they have. If a student is on the line between pass/fail and has any absences, it could cost them their grade. I see the school's thinking on this, encouraging attendance. Obviously students aren't learning if they aren't showing up. I also think the students are whining because the policy is new. I do think there should be some altering to how they figure these percentages. But every rule will cut out someone, and though you feel bad for them, the line has to be drawn. Don't complain about being cut out when you live right next to where the scissors cut. Move!

After clarifying that better teachers did not mean "prettier" or "gives less work", the students explained what they really meant. They complained that teachers didn't really teach, they just "show". Teachers worked one example on the board and assigned work but never really taught the students the how and why. Score one for the students- I agree. Sad, but true. Sad, but glad the kids are at least smart enough to spot it. Also, the students want teachers who will act more like students- in teacher speak- relate. Successful teaching is based on your relationship with each student - not with your content.

Surprisingly, the kids didn't want to change the food, they wanted more of it! They want the option to be able to buy extra portions of whatever is on the tray. They're logic is that if they are willing to pay for it, why shouldn't the school be willing to supply it? Again, I agree. Students have to sign the lunch list so that the cafeteria ladies can get an approximate count. Why not make the option available for them to check extra portions? I could see their being some trouble in the logistics of it, but it's worth considering. Also, students wanted more drink options. They know that soda is not an option due to the scare of childhood obesity, but want the option of bottled water or juice. Some things just don't go with milk. Enough said.

Football Team
Our school is too small for a football team and would have to travel extensively in order to play at our level. I do think that we are missing a large part of the student body who would otherwise be involved. It's not fair, but this school's focus is largely on basketball. No one would want to take money away from those teams to fund a football team. Plus, we don't have a field! I wish for their sakes we could make this happen, it opens up a whole new response to school spirit, but chances are slim to none.

Gym Equipment
The students complain (again, no way!) that the equipment we have sucks. It's true. Very little variety in P.E. Games like one-bounce, dodgeball, whiffle ball, mat ball, basketball, and flag football are about all you'll ever see. But, ironicly, I actually helped research and write for the Carol M. White Physical Education Grant which would actually fund a fitness center, new equipment, and new curriculum. And with the Lord's favor, I believe we will get it!

All in all, I was impressed with the kids thinking. But then depressed at how little we actually listen. We are here to serve the kids and improve their lives, yet we rarely ever ask what would help them the most! I wish it was within my power to change these things but at least awareness is a step in the right direction.


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