I go to work with a mission: I want students to love school. I want them to want to come to school. I want them to be excited about learning. I think most teachers do. So I stopped punishing, I stopped rewarding, I gave up as much homework as I could, I gave up grades and all of the tests I could. I made it student-centered and student-led. I gave them back the classroom. And yet…some kids still hate school. How do I know? Because they told me.
I always end the trimester asking them for their opinion. What should I change? What did they love? What do they never want to do again? They always give me honest feedback and I take it to heart, changing the second trimester based on their feedback. Does it sometimes hurt to read? Absolutely. Being told that a child hates school hurts. And yet, it also tells me how much I am up against.
I am not the only factor in creating a love of school. I can only do so much. I can take the time I have control over and try to make it the best possible, but I cannot work miracles, even if I want to. School is still school and no matter what you do there will always be kids that hate it. Does that mean that our schools are broken? Perhaps. Does that mean that we are not reaching every kid? Yeah, probably. Does that mean that we still have to change the way school is done in most districts? Absolutely. Does it mean I am a terrible teacher? Maybe for that kid.
But when a child tells us they hate school they are also telling us that they hope we will do something about it. They are also trusting us with their words. They are giving us another chance to make it better, to re-engage them, to work harder. And they are giving us a chance to start a discussion, simply by asking them “Why?”
So on Monday, I get to ask why and then I get to listen. Because that’s how we change school, we listen to the kids and we start a discussion. Yes, the truth hurts, but it is no use to hide from it, even if it is not all your fault.