You have to know what’s important to your people.

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago where a few leaders from my school’s community were presenting. One thing the mayor said stuck with me. “You have to know what’s important to your people.”

This got me thinking about what is important to my students. So – I made a three-question survey to ask them.

  1. Overall (not just this class) – how much do you like school?  The choices were: Love it, Like it, It’s ok (I don’t really like or dislike it), Not a big fan. Hate it.
  2. If you could change one thing to improve your rating of school (from the first question) what would it be?
  3. What is the most important thing you want to get from your time in school? What do you want to get from your education?

I told my students I just wanted them to be honest, and that I was not collecting their usernames.

Here are the results of question #1. (I have about 50 students.)How much do you like school results

Questions 2 and 3 had a variety of responses. There was no clear consensus although homework came up numerous times for question 2, and get into a good college and/or get a good job came up for question 3.

For me, though, the part of this process that is still with me now a few weeks later is what happened after the survey.

One of my 8th graders asked me what I was going to do with the results of the survey. I told him I wasn’t sure. I might share them with the principal, but I was more wanting the information for my own knowledge – to plan things for our classroom.

His response was, “Well, I just thought it was really cool that you actually asked us what we thought. What we wanted from our education.”

I think about this almost every day.

Yes, as teachers it’s important to guide students towards the things that we think they need to know. The skills that they will need to be successful students and adults.

But, there has to be some space for what they want to learn. What they think is important. For their voices to be heard and valued. If we want students to invest in their education, they have to see it as worthwhile to their future.

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