Today, I spent 30 minutes listening to 20 students from across the district. As we were talking about student-teacher relationships, here were some issues that came up:
- Teachers instilled the belief that students were not going to succeed.
- Teachers would do nothing when students asked for help
- Teachers displayed favoritism and gossiped about students behind their backs.
- Teachers made up grades.
- Teachers would not stay for more than a semester.
- Counselors would lock their doors the first few days of school.
- There are few adults to reach out to in schools for non-academic issues.
- Different teachers would have different homework loads for the same class.
These were students from some of the best schools in the district and some of the worst schools. Regardless of whether it’s an issue with teachers or the education system in general, whenever students took the initiative to speak up, whether to a counselor, a principal, or the teacher directly, their concerns were often dismissed as entitled complaints. (It’s a different story whenever parents spoke up.)
If a student believes that they are not learning a subject well, does that concern deserve to be listened to or ignored?
Interestingly, when I proposed that schools arrange conversations between students and teachers about how they could improve their teacher, there was some pushback.
Someone said this “I don’t want to say something bad about someone who controls my grades”
In other words, I don’t want to get that close with someone who gives me grades. We’re afraid that saying bad things to people we interact with every day will lead to subtle dislike, which may have a negative impact on something that is just a number.
Literally every other system humans use depends on reliable feedback. When computers crash, an error report is sent. Restaurants will offer free food in exchange for filling out a survey about a dining experience. Civic engagement encourages people to speak up about issues in their communities. Businesses rely on feedback from their customers to improve their products.
Why not open up these same feedback channels between students and teachers?