In this video link “Students Speak Up to President Obama about how to improve their schools” students are answering a question posed to them by an organization that creates nation-wide school surveys in order to collect tons of data regarding different aspects of schooling and the feelings/opinions from students, administration, and parents regarding these aspects. The question posed in this particular video is “What would you say to President Obama in a letter in order to improve your school?” There are different students, maybe 15 or so, ranging from grades 9-12. Some of their- responses vary, and some are similar if not the same.
My opinion of the video is one of distrust. I distrust that these students were spontaneous in their replies to the question “What would you say to President Obama in order to improve your school?” The responses given by these students were cookie-cutter responses that they have either heard adults talk about or read somewhere. The only original response was when one 12th grade student suggested that the government treats the public education system as a business and put more focus on the students as a priceless commodity in that it will yield better results, even that one is a remedy that I have read before, but at least it was less common. Every other response that was given were answers that sounded like they were lifted right out of some “fix-our-schools” literature.
Something that surprised me was the fact that the video only interviewed 9th-12th graders and from only three different high schools, two being from the same state. I find it rather inspiring to listen to the younger student’s opinions and aspirations; they haven’t yet been influenced by society telling them what’s what.
Something that did not surprise me was the responses. As I previously mentioned all of the responses are issues that we have all heard before, so being an adolescent in a system that is trained to regurgitate information, these students were telling the camera what it wanted to hear; the “right” answer.
• Smaller class sizes to ensure smaller teacher to student ratios
• More technology
• More enthusiastic teachers
• Make learning fun and interactive, more hands on
The list goes on…
If any of these responses were original, then why didn’t we hear any of the students ideas regarding English language learners and the struggles they have inside and outside of school, or why didn’t we hear anyone ask for better food choices, or more sports programs, or anything towards the fact that some schools have swimming pools, gymnasiums, and cafés on their campus and others do not? To me, these sound like things that a typical 14 year-old might say.
My struggle with this survey system is that it is posing questions in these students minds that otherwise may have never been an issue to them in the first place. I liken it to fixing something that isn’t broken. If any of it is truly what these students are thinking about as they walk through their schools halls, or if it is what they are pondering while sitting through a math lesson, then I’ll be damned. Whether the students are or not isn’t much of the issue. The issues is that we as teachers know what the schools need, and we can do something to improve the education in the USA.
As a teacher I can hope to alleviate some of these stressors by creating hands on curriculum, requesting and planning for more field trips, pushing for iPads in the classrooms at teacher meetings, by always making a connection to real world applications in my lessons, and by fostering every student’s capacity to blossom with creativity and inspiration.