The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Students, Please Forgive Us (pt.3)

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Though there was a lack of research to counter the previous assertion about encouragement, there may have been research involved at some point along the way as the student constitution was drafted.  I say “may have been” because some data was presented, though the source was never cited.  It’s impossible for me to say whether the data came from qualified academic research, or whether it was educational philosophy that somebody packaged into an article in an education publication.  Regardless, I could have searched for the article and discussed it with colleagues.  Some things that were cited from the article were the benefits from a mere 1% increase in school climate.  How was “school climate” quantified in the article?  What concrete steps can we take in that direction to improve?  None of those considerations came up when the research was referenced.

By the end of the presentation, the most our presenters did to suggest how to address school climate was to tell us we need to ask ourselves “What have I improved or contributed to today?”  The assumption was that teachers don’t do that.  It’s easy to see why students would think that since they don’t see the amount of reflection in which teachers engage with themselves and their colleagues.  It doesn’t often happen in front of students, so if they don’t see it, for their intents and purposes it isn’t happening—unless someone knowledgeable about teaching takes the time to explain the reflection processes in which teachers engage and steer the presenters towards suggesting something more substantial and insightful.  Then again, why were the students telling us what we needed to do?  If it was their constitution, why weren’t they telling us what they were going to do?

As the presentation was wrapping up, someone in a position of authority told us “it’s not over” in regard to the presenters rolling out the student constitution.  The following week, the group briefed other students who then visited homerooms to spread the word to the masses.  Some of those deployed wore the official t-shirt that was crafted to promote the cause.  Another push to promote the cause came through a few weeks later.  Faculty gained clearance to show support by wearing the official t-shirt if we had bought one or accepted one when they were given out for free, and we could also wear jeans in what became an official “dress down” day.  One colleague pointed out that the clearance to dress down was the same as what one student railed against when she was offended that a teacher bribed  students with candy in exchange for favorable behaviors.

Ultimately, we don’t expect to see something sublime and transcendent when students come before us in a situation like they did when they presented their constitution.  We rarely get something sublime or transcendent even from the professionals we hire.  Plus, it’s absurd to think our students would rank with Tara Brown or Hal Urban, though our students have something that Brown and Urban don’t have:  An authentic voice coming from the ground level.  That voice is something we should be hearing frequently.  As with any voice that wants to be heard, though, it needs to be measured and precise and not fired from the hip.  Our students are naive about the world in so many ways, but that’s what you are when you’re seventeen or eighteen.  We can no more hold that against them than we can hold it against the sky for being blue.  Our students are also aware and ambitious, if misguided.  That’s where we come in as teachers:  We help guide them, and our job demands we put our all into guiding them as best we can.  We have to know the territory and how to guide them through the pitfalls inherent in unfamiliar terrain.  It’s an uncomfortable process—growth always is, and the only thing worse than limited or no growth is false growth.  When students are left thinking that their accomplishments, whatever they might be, are insightful and meaningful, that any opinion they have is valid, that any perceptions are reality, we have wronged them.  In the wake of all we’ve seen thus far about the student constitution, I’m reminded of how hard we need to work to be insightful and critical towards our students’ work, to question their opinions, and to demand they back them up in substantive ways, all so they know that that is how the world works.  If we do this and familiarize them with the process, it will help them achieve excellence and accomplish something meaningful.   We should also hope they’ll forgive us if we can’t help them recover this movement that has such potential for positive change in the climate in our building.

Written by seeker70

August 10, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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