So…what did you learn?
For the past couple months, I have been fortunate to return to the classroom and learn with amazing juniors and seniors about the wonderfully wild world of Biotechnology. As we wound down the semester, I asked my students to reflect on what they wished we (adults) knew about high school. Their voices are compelling, and I humbly share their wisdom with you…
“High school is not as easy as it used to be…to many one question always stays in their mind – “Should I give up?” … everyone expects a lot from us”.
This statement was echoed by many in various forms – the frustration with increased credits, balancing work and school, how hard math is (especially PreCalc, Calc I and College Math) – but what was most troubling is that many students did not feel that adults knew and appreciated their burdens. They are fully aware that they need to do well academically, go to college and become productive members of our society. The irony is that the majority are already productive members of their community; my kids hold jobs, have registered to vote and are civically engaged in Key Club, Young Life, and student government. Yet they cited working multiple jobs, balancing school and home responsibilities and the push for excellence as being overwhelming – and sadly they feel like they are surmounting these issues alone. Which brings me to the next point of wisdom….
“Take the time to get to know us and ask us how we are…Be more involved with students – not everyone has a good life, but (it feels) like it isn’t acknowledged until something bad happens”
Throughout their reflection they told me that they are craving authentic human connection. Someone that will care about them and ask what they need, how they are doing and if they need support beyond the curriculum. They were clear that they don’t want a friend, but an advocate who can support, mentor and above all listen to them when they need it most. Several mentioned depression, anxiety and mental health afflictions, and food and housing insecurity that they were too afraid to discuss with their teachers. My kids were very open with me about their needs when asked; unfortunately, I learned of their needs at the end of the semester.
“We know what you do for us – and we know you need more money”
Kids are aware of the financial backfilling that occurs with teachers and classrooms. One student wrote “The school system sucks…Maybe if all our money didn’t go to sports, teachers wouldn’t have to pay for supplies out of their pocket and the bathrooms would have toilet paper”. While the ire is slightly misplaced (sports are not sucking the classroom supply budget) – the sentiment is real. Students know that schools in Arizona are suffering financially and that their educational environment is affected as a result.
So what do you do with this wisdom? For me, I plan on using it. I am going to hold on to their reflections and the next time I am frustrated with a kid who fell asleep in class, or missed a week of instruction, or just doesn’t seem to care – I am going to re-read them. I am going to remember what they told me about their realities. I am going to make my next school community better by acting on this knowledge. I am going to learn – I hope it inspires others to do the same.