I asked my students, all 114 of them, to show off their typical day in school. Then I asked the world to join in. Yesterday more than 3,000 students did the #studentlife challenge. Images shared through the hashtag, blog posts, or any other social media platform all to let the world in to what happens when you are a student.
I was not surprised when I saw all of the sitting. Students learning by listening rather than doing. I was not surprised when I saw many teachers teaching, standing at the front of the room handing out information. I was not surprised when I heard students tell us how tired they were. How many hours of homework they had. How every day was the same; monotony rules their world. We know this, I have been fighting that type of school for the last 5 years.
I was surprised though, when I saw how many of my students said these things. How many of my students told me they sat down, that they wished for more movement. That they wished for more breaks, longer lunch, more doing, less listening. That they wished for more freedom in their own school.
I was surprised because in many of the classrooms around my school, they do move. They do speak. They do rather than just sit. And yet few mentioned any of this. Few mentioned how hard their teachers work to try to make lessons interactive, engaging, and worthwhile. Few mentioned how little homework they have. How little we ask them to do outside of school. How much choice they do have in a day. My students sounded like all other students; like school was a punishment they had to suffer through every day until their real life starts.
Disheartened, I wonder if students will ever notice, or whether it even matters? Will students ever see how hard their teachers are working to change their educational experience? Will students ever realize that the way many are teaching now is not the traditional way of teaching anymore? Will students ever realize that they do have a say in their education but that they need to speak up for us to change?
There seems to be two lenses of education; the one shared by students and the one shared by teachers. And they don’t seem to mesh up at all. You ask a teacher what their classroom is like and they will show you pictures of happy students doing learning. You ask a student what their day is like and they will show you a picture of textbooks and teachers standing at the front speaking. Where is our educational narrative not matching up?
I will never stop tying to engage my students. I will never stop trying to make their days active. To give them choice. To give them voice. I will never stop trying to make school a place of curiosity and fun, rather than mandatory listening. I wonder if I am being too optimistic that students would notice all of this? Does it matter whether students recognize what we do?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.