Sunday, October 25, 2015

Student Voice Groups #KidsDeserveIt

This week I was able to do something I haven't done before as a leader.  I listened to my students.

Now let me clarify.  I've done anonymous surveys, I've had kids write letters, and more.  But I have never really taken the time to just sit in their presence and listen.

I started with 3rd-5th graders.  I had each teacher select two students from their homerooms that they considered leaders.  I then took those 12 students from each grade and we sat and talked.

I asked them 4 questions:

1.  What is your favorite part of school?
2.  What is the best thing you've done this year in school?
3.  What do you WISH your school looked/performed/acted like?
4.  What is something you don't like that we do?

I provided no judgement.  I just listened.

And the responses were great!  I learned a few things.  And my students were honest.  Why were they as honest as they were?  Because I, even as the leader, have worked hard to make myself visible and build relationships with all of the students on our campus.

I learned that there is quite a bit we're doing that the kids enjoyed.  I also laughed at many of their wishes for what their dream school would look like (classrooms made of jello for one).

But most importantly, some of their ideas for things they wish we would change were very doable.  And I will be making some changes.

So why do I write this post?  Because as leaders I think we can easily get caught up in our every day things that we forget to do something as easy as listen to the little voices we're supposed to be serving.

We're now going to start meeting once a month, and I'm even going to rotate some new students in so we can get more and more voices heard.  And I'm even going to start leadership groups with our younger students too.

I can't wait to see where this leads, what get's changed, and the empowerment that our students will get to feel knowing that we're listening and taking some of their ideas! #KidsDeserveIt

Sunday, October 11, 2015

As A Student, I Wish You Knew.... #iWishStudent

Well, the conclusion of my "I Wish You Knew..." series is here.  This has been such a learning journey for me to hear from administrators, then teachers, then parents, and now students from all over the world.

I think there's so much to be learned from all these groups as we move forward and make decisions.  This week's responses, from students, yet again had a common theme throughout.  But before I share with you my thoughts, I'll let you read a few of the comments I selected.

I had over 500 student responses submitted.   Students from PreK (with responses submitted by teachers) all the way through college students. Below are just a few.

It's hard, I need more time, all my classes are rushing through things and I have about 6 hours of homework each night and don't have time for anything else. I will be up till 2 in the morning studying for 3 different tests that are all on the same day, we need to slow down.

I wish you knew how hard it is to have homework after school when we all have after school activities

That I have a life outside of school and hate it when I'm given homework that is just busy work. Reading, do a few math problems, studying for upcoming tests I understand is needed. I really like watching the videos I'm assigned as part of our "flipped" class, but some of the other homework that is assigned it BORING and a waste of time.

That a lot of us are going through tough times, that we need your constant support, that we need you to understand that we do have busy schedules just like you, that everyone's special no matter what religion, color or race they are.

I wish you knew that students are rarely ever 100% physically or mentally ready for class. It's not laziness or uncaring for most of us that keeps us from reaching our full potential. Most of us stay up until eleven or twelve at night trying to do all the homework that you assigned for that night because we only were able to start it at ten because of every other activity that we're encouraged to do. In order to put school and your class first, we have to put our mental and physical health second. It's quite the paradox, but we would all probably do a lot better in class if you gave us shorter homework assignments each night instead of keeping us up into the late hours.

I wish you knew that I will do anything to fit in with my peers but I still really want you (my teacher) to like me.

We have other things going on besides school
Sometimes we just don't have time
We get bored easily
Were tired of sitting for a long
We like variety

...that some of us cling to our cell phones in classes because the people we're connecting with there provide us with a safe space that the classroom has never been able to. I wish you knew that more often than not, bullying takes the shape of smirks and snickers and raised eyebrows rather than verbal taunts or physical means. There's not much that you can do to stop that from happening, of course, but you can help students like me, who walked around with our eyes down and our headphones blasting because the music drowned out everyone else around us. I wish you knew our stories, because I would have been happy to tell you mine if you'd only just asked.

I wish they knew that they can come off as very intimidating and even though they may offer extra help some students are reluctant to take it due to a teachers intimidating demeanor.

I wish you knew that sometimes you are too hard on us. Sometimes we have a bad day and need support.

As a student, I wish you knew that we like our teachers even when we misbehave a little.

How hard I work for barely passable grades.

New concepts aren't as easy to understand as you might think. If one way of explaining something doesn't make sense, don't explain it in the same way again! It doesn't matter how much slower you say it, or even if you say it louder, chances are that concept won't get through to the student unless an entirely fresh way of looking at the problem is introduced. Also, frustration is your biggest enemy. I remember being frustrated because I just couldn't understand how to read an analog clock in 2nd grade. No amount of repetition was going to make me get how to read analog clocks. I had to see clocks in a totally different way. So, get to know which students are easily frustrated, and lead them away from whatever is frustrating them to a new path of "enlightenment."

That life is more important than school sometimes.

That sometimes it's hard and that maybe sometimes they can trust us when something bad happened and they think that we did it. Maybe that sometimes they could tell when were nervous to answer a question. 

I wish you knew, that its not easy to answer questions that fast like you expect us to and not yell at us about.

I wish you knew that it's so hard to have home work on vacation/weekend because my little baby cousin is going to have a little sister so it's my job to try to keep her happy and it's so hard to take care of her when I have homework.

that I do not understand things until they are repeated several times

That it is hard and really stressful on the mind. Also honestly I am afraid of missing class because of all the work we do.

I wish teachers knew that I am trying to do my best on my test, and it is hard to be a student.

I wish that teachers knew how to say my name,.

That it is not always easy for us ,and we go through tough times on the bus because there are some people that bully you. So i just want to let teachers know that we have tough times in life.

That kids are thankful for people that care about kids education. And teachers are doing a very nice thing just for kids.

As a student I wish my teachers in Junior High knew how
nice my teachers were back elementery school and that they are so nice too

I wish teachers knew some stuff about me and my classmates, so they can learn about what are our favorite thing to eat and play.

I wish teacher's knew what we feel like because it is hard to be a kid in school.

I wish that teachers knew that we the students want to help the environment and people

That it sucks when you are just there for the pay check and we have to teach our selves everything

I wish teachers took the time to know a little bit more about me than who I am.

I wish teachers knew more that kids liked projects then work on paper.

I wish that teachers knew that their kids would like them if they would interact with them like they were family.

As a Student I wish teachers knew about me.

I wish you knew how boring it is to work without partners and how bad I feel when I get a bad grade

it can be hard to make school a priority when I am thinking about problems in my family. Please be someone who understands.

I wish you knew how much I miss my sister. Sometimes it makes me really sad and it lasts for the whole day

And there you go.  There were two things that stuck out most to me.  Kids are overwhelmed by homework, but more so, kids want to be known.  They want to be seen, to be understood, to be heard.  One that especially stuck out to me was "I wish you knew how to say my name".  Wow.  So easy, yet we miss those moments some time.

I hope this series has been as enlightening to you as it has to me.  Please leave any comments via this week's hashtag of #iWishStudent

Sunday, October 4, 2015

As a Parent, I Wish You Knew.... #iWishParent

Welcome to the 3rd part (in a 4 part series) of "I Wish You Knew....".  Part 1 was all about what Administrators wished you knew, part 2 was all about what Teachers wished you knew, and now Part 3 focuses on Parents!

I really wanted to gather great ideas and honest opinions from parents.  So, besides just getting parents on social media channels to leave comments, I also sent out the form to the parents at my school in Navasota, Texas.

The responses were honest, they were raw, and they were real.  Many of them made me tear up, a few made me flat out cry, but more importantly made me look at things through a different lens.

I hope you enjoy reading the responses of what parents wish educators knew, and be sure to check out next week's final post in the series, all from the perspective of students.  And make sure to share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #iWishParents.

Here goes...

"As a parent, I wish you knew how much it means to me when you WANT to know about my child; about what makes him tick, about what makes him excited, about what makes him sad. I wish you knew that knowing a little bit of his background, like how his two brothers never came home from the hospital, or how his daddy has to travel for work, and were able to apply these things to mentoring him. I wish you knew that he is my everything, and I do expect you to leave the proverbial flock to find him if he has gone astray. I wish you knew that I support you, especially when you're supporting him. I wish you would really take the time to know him - because knowing him has changed my life." 

"That when we mess up, we beat ourselves up more than you can imagine. We don't enjoy being frustrated, angry, or harsh. We do our best day in and day out, but we screw up and through this hopefully we teach our kids the power of the words "I'm sorry, daddy messed up". We hope that through our example our kids learn to take responsibility for their actions...good and bad!"

"That each child is different and as such must be rewarded and disciplined differently according to their personality."

"I dread homework. I want to spend quality time with my child after a long day at work. I would rather read with her, help her where she is behind, teach her to cook, or work on our own learning projects. Instead we fight with each other over hours of pointless, busy, homework each night. I wish you knew, homework this year is damaging the relationship I have with my child. I wish we could look forward to homework each night."

"Each child is different, so you can not treat them all the same, and expect the same outcome for each."

"Teachers, I wish you knew that homework takes too much of my time with my kid! My kids work hard during the day at school - and after school if they do something extracurricular - and we want to spend time together as a family instead of battling homework every single night. Please, value my time with my child and allow work to stay at school." 

"I don't like projects...especially elementary projects. But if you are going to send one home - it's worthless to grade it because I already went to school...and passed. I don't need to get graded again on a project that is essentially all my work because it is above the ability level of my child."

"that my goal is to raise well-rounded children. I want them to be involved in leadership, in athletics, community service activities, and enjoy their educational experiences. I am not aiming for them to get 4.0's or higher or to rack up AP credits. If they are able to do it without being stressed out...great, but I have seen too many teenagers fall into the stress of school, and I refuse to let my kids go through that."

"She is not just a "ADHD kid", she is intelligent, creative, and wonderful. Her brain just moves faster than her body can keep up. She is so much more than a label. "

"We try our best to be there for our children, but it's difficult to have so many hats to wear simultaneously. Sometimes, our children can't be our priority, and we feel terribly guilty about it. "

"I wish you knew there are times when life gets in the way of me being the first teacher. I know it is my responsibility to teach my child in every aspect but sometimes I don't take advantage of a teaching moment because it does not occur to me at that exact moment that I should teach here."

"I wish you knew that I AM teaching my child manners but sometimes she just doesn't obey. It's not because I'm a bad parent or she's a bad child. It's no different than when your boss asks you to do something then you immediately have something come up in your personal life and you forget or misplace that information. They make mistakes too and their attention span IS shorter than ours."

"How difficult it is for my children and family when you assign a lot of busy work as homework and expect that we get it done. Please don't assign it. We work children get home late and we need time as a family."

"That it's even harder than it looks, but worth every minute!"

"I am a single mother to six kids. 5 boys one girl. My priorities change as my children and situations change. I've noticed it's hard for my friends and family without kids to understand why I do the things I do for my children. What may be important to them, isn't important to me. My children come first."

"Kids don't come with a set of directions. and we know our kids do not always tell parents the truth!"

"What little time we have with our kids - we do not want to fight over homework. Keep it short."
"It's hard to find time to read and sign all those forms and papers. Keep in for short and to the point."

"That not all kids have both parents at home or in the lives on a daily basis due to distance but as a parent I would still like to be informed on my child's progress and parent type activities because their other parent doesn't/refuses to communicate such things. I wish I didn't feel so left out."

"how much I really do appreciate and value all the hard work teachers do in instilling not only education into my kids life, but also on how to be a better person. It really means a lot when teachers keep us updated on what they are doing with my kids on a daily basis. As a parent I do realize how important it is to continue that education at home and do appreciate the reminder to keep that up."

"As the parent of an ADHD child, I wish people knew how much he, and other kids like him, struggle when dealing with their own hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and lack of focus. He is a very bright young man, although he is often failing his classes because his inability to pay attention is often mistaken for disrespect and lack of concern. He is 16 years old and has been on medicine since he was 4. He recently stopped taking it because it alters his personality severely and causes him to be too tired after school to participate in the sports he loves. Everyday is a struggle for him and I wish people knew that a little patience and understanding goes a long, long way with children like him!!"

"I wish you knew how much anxiety I get when I drop off my child at school."

"I wish you knew how much I can see some teachers and staff trying harder than others."

"I wish you knew the feeling I have everyday when my child comes home discouraged because the other girls are continually chipping away her confidence. I wish you knew that we have tried everything to make her understand that, "it's not her," that the other girls have problems at home," that "she can't keep having headaches and stomachaches," that, "it's cannot keep coming to the school." I wish you knew that all the pain, is real to her...."

"being a parent is very challenging yet it teaches you so much about yourself, that feeling of having your heart outside of your body is scary yet a huge sense of accomplishment because you created that child." 
"Being a parent is hard work, you must be able to multitask. Most importantly you have to put your children's needs before your own but above all that being a parent is a blessing!"

"Time spent at home with family is extremely valuable. If you are going to assign homework for any reason, it needs to be valuable and meaningful. A lot of students do not have a healthy school/personal life balance."

In the end, the biggest thing that stuck out to me was that parents wanted to feel understood and heard.  I think these comments are a great glimpse into and reminder of things we as educators can't forget!  Add in your thoughts on Twitter using the #iWishParents hashtag!  And check out the final post in the series, next week, all from the perspective of students!