Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Listen To Kids

Making The Time To Listen... 

Yesterday I had the opportunity to enjoy my lunch with a bunch of #Cantiague munchkins - some 2nd and 4th graders - and I can honestly say that it was the highlight of my day. Normally I don't get to eat my lunch sitting down so today was a treat for more than one reason. These kids won a raffle at Homecoming two weeks ago and the prize was lunch with me. I don't know that I would have considered lunch with my principal a "prize" when I was in elementary school but these kids sure did and they were super excited to hang out with me. So, after we all got our lunches, we got comfortable in the conference room where we ate our lunches while we chatted it up. I heard about their weekends, which included some funny Halloween stories, different family functions and collective sadness over the losses of the Mets, Jets, Giants and Islanders - clearly not a great weekend for NY sports teams.

Our Kids Have A LOT To Say... 

Although there were lots of laughs and stories exchanged, the discussion went far beyond our favorite TV shows or most annoying sibling (yup, that came up too). At some point we started talking about school and the experiences they were having as learners in the building. The insights and perspectives they shared were awesome and so informative for me as an educator in the building. I couldn't help but think, I need to do this every day - just sit and listen to kids because they know what is working and what needs to change.

Lunch Takeaways...

  • For example, they shared with me how much they love physical education, probably their favorite special, and how they appreciate that one of our physical education teachers is a little more structured while the other is not as much. They explained that they need this balance because it makes time in the gym fun but safe. WOW! 

  • They also shared with me how much they love the new library experience (new furniture and new teacher). They explained how the furniture makes them so much more comfortable while exploring the books - WOW - and that the new teacher has shifted the focus to add more technology - yes, they realized this intentional shift.
  • They even shared that although they loved our former librarian, the new one has taught them a lot about how to use technology, and specifically databases, to learn. WOW! 

  • The conversations went on and I learned a lot about what we could be doing better, what we are doing well and what the students love most! I was also reminded about the importance of accessing student voice, on a regular basis, and how this must become the norm, not the exception... even at the elementary level! With that being said, listening to our students is not enough - we must act on their ideas and empower them so they understand that they have a say in what happens within our school. 

Student Voice: Should Be Heard & Acted Upon...

In the end, what I know from my experience is that the educators in a building literally make thousands of decisions a day that we believe are in the best interest of our children. I think that for the most part we are successful with these decisions and we work hard to give our students what they need regardless of readiness levels. With that being said, we cannot forget the importance of including student voices in the decisions we make, especially in the ones that will have a direct impact on them and their learning (read this piece from Johns Hopkins about giving students voice or this research from the Gates foundation about listening to students). 

Our students have important insights and valuable perspectives and from my vantage point, they are our most important "clients" so listening to our kids (and acting on their ideas) should be a priority for us as educators. So, we may have to get comfortable with relinquishing some of the control but the end result will be amplifying student voice and empowering students to have a say in the future of their school and their learning. 


  1. Tony,
    Thank you so much for sharing. I have a group for "lunch with the principal" each month, but to be honest the conversation is usually pretty much day to day stuff. I would like to focus more on the student voice on their educational experience and what's "working" in the school (and what's not). Great ideas!!

  2. Hey Pal,

    I love this post -- and have had similar experiences myself. Every time that I ask my students for feedback, I get REALLY valuable insights which cause significant change in my practice.

    That's a lesson that we need to embrace. When we recognize that the most valuable feedback in the room doesn't move from TEACHER to STUDENT but instead from STUDENT to TEACHER (a result that Hattie reaffirmed in his research), we (1). improve our schools and (2). create learning spaces that students feel like they have a voice in.

    Anyway, hope you are well. Been a while!