Thursday, May 8, 2014

From The Mouths of Babes

I recently had the pleasure of spending a quiet evening with my son Paul. We did some homework, had dinner and chatted for a while. During one of our conversations in the early part of the night Paul paused while reading and said, "Dad, school could be so much better if only a few things were different but I don't think it really matters because no one cares what kids have to say about school. We are just supposed to listen!"

Needless to say, I was both intrigued and horrified by Paul's comment. My initial question was one of genuine interest... how can we make school better? Please tell me Paul! I was excited and interested. Within moments though, I was consumed by sadness and concern because I couldn't help but think that all our children may feel like their voices are meaningless within the school experience. 

Determined to stay focused on the positive, I asked Paul to explain to me what, from his perspective, would make school a better place for all kids and here is what Paul came up with...

  • Eliminate homework or at least keep it to a minimum each night. Kids work hard in school all day so when they get home, they need time to play, relax, be with their families and even just think about their day and reflect on what happened! Kids should not be doing hours of homework, especially if no on actually checks it at school. If kids are expected to spend their time outside of school doing homework, then teachers should check it. If homework is a must, then don't give too much of it - that just stresses everyone out at home!

  • Give kids more time to work together in school. School work and learning is always so much better when we get to work in partnerships or small groups. I love working with a partner because it makes learning more fun and gives me a space to share my ideas. Also, when I work with a partner, I never feel embarrassed to ask a question about what we are doing, especially if I am confused.

  • Let me do research about the things that I am most interested in! For example, I am really interested in Marvel and DC characters (especially the villains) so maybe I could research their histories and do a presentation using some form of technology or I could create my own comic book. Whatever the topic, I think us kids can figure out a way to connect it back to the different subjects in school. 

  • I had no interest in studying the Sugar Act for social studies but it was assigned to me so I had no choice. This is often a problem for us kids because no one really asks us what we want to do and why we want to do it. Things could be so much better if schools and teachers let students have a choice in some of the things they have to learn about in school! Who doesn't like to have choices? 

  • School needs to be fun because when we are having fun and laughing together we feel better about ourselves and we could do anything. For example, let me bring my iTouch to school to help me learn - not only will that be fun for me but it will also help me learn. I think this is the most important one - school needs to be fun for everyone!

As I listened to Paul and took notes on what he shared, I found myself shaking my head along in agreement. You see, as a doctoral student, I saw ways that my school experience could be improved by implementing some of Paul's suggestions. I also started to think about myself as the Lead Learner of Cantiague Elementary - how could Paul's suggestions help us at Cantiague? I am not quite sure of the answers but one thing I am certain of is that I want our children, starting with Paul, to always feel like their voices are heard and valued - that, in itself, can make school a better place. So, moving forward, don't forget to hear the things emanating from the mouths of babes because the suggestions our kids make can most definitely improve the school experience for everyone!        


  1. Tony,

    Terrific post! I hope you have continually encouraged Paul to start his own blog as well. He has great thoughts that others can learn from.

    As for his suggestions and what you put in the post, I especially like the focus on choices and that school should be fun! If we spend 6+ hours a day in a place, shouldn't we enjoy what we are doing? Both students and staff should believe most days are fun.

    What your post tells me though is bigger...ultimately shouldn't we as adults be asking students what to improve? Student learning is what is at stake...I agree with you...they should be a part of the conversation.

    Thanks for sharing!


  2. Tony,
    I really enjoyed reading your post! Kids have value to add to many of the decisions that we make in school, and your son's ideas substantiate that idea. I truly believe that if we listen to their ideas, within reason of course, we can find some common ground to implement at school.
    If we are able to create an environment in our schools that makes kids want to come learn each and every day, then we are headed in the right direction. I always felt that if my students wanted to be in my room each day, that I was already ahead of the game. If the students are excited to be at school, it removes so much of the compliance aspect that is associated with schools today. Instead of being there because they have to, students will be at school because they want to learn and have fun. imagine that!
    Thanks for sharing your son's brilliance!

  3. Tony,

    What a great reminder to provide opportunities for students to share what they think by taking the time to listen and consider ways to implement or respond to their ideas. We also want to know that someone cares enough to ask our opinion and if changes cannot be made, at least we know our voice was not only heard and respected.