The Future of School recently asked me to share my voice as part of an episode of Dennis Quaid’s “The Viewpoint” related to their initiative “No More I Hate School”. At first glance, it felt very random for me to be filmed for anything and almost logistically impossible to leave my kids and job for a few days. I have learned that the more I resist something the bigger the growth opportunity on the other side is.
When I began to scratch the surface of the possibilities and to really think about the simple brilliance behind providing schools with tools to engage in authentic conversations with kids I knew that there are no accidents and that I was being given an opportunity to speak my truth.
Even though I published a book in 2021 about my son’s struggles in school as an ADHD’er, his problems are not “fixed”. Wednesday afternoon, right before traveling, I received (yet another) email about Jason hiding out in the bathroom to avoid attending class. Schools typically respond with discipline matrices that include detentions. At this point, detentions have little to no effect on Jason.
I’ve also come to learn that Amy Valentine, Chief Executive Officer & Education Evangelist of Future of School, is a visionary and that if she asks me to do anything, I know that it’s going to be impactful and good for kids.
I left Florida energized after connecting with brilliant & innovative educators. We come from different parts of the country, have different perspectives, and diverse stories, but we are united by two common values: we care deeply about kids & we have a desire to encourage other educators.
Fortunately, Jason has a very responsive principal and we developed a plan to address Jason’s needs. She returned my call during dinner Friday night and I felt blessed to have had my new found community’s support as I advocated for my son. All too often parents, children, teachers, and administrators are left to advocate and speak their truths without support. This is tough when it feels like we are going “against the tide”.
The questions that I was asked for my interview have left me with food for introspection, helped me to connect with my purpose, and have me busy organizing action steps:
Do you hear negative comments such as “I don’t like school” or “I hate school” in your role? How does it make you feel to hear that?
It alarms me. School exists for kids. The purpose of school is for kids to learn and to connect with their purpose so to me when kids are continuously expressing that they don’t like school, I feel it as a call to action both personally and systemically.
What types of feelings, emotions and frustrations do you normally observe when students use the phrase “I hate school”?
It has gone from boredom to demoralized and overwhelmed. The reality is that school as it stands right now has adverse effects on the mental health of many children. We need more support for kids both academically and emotionally.
Kids want many of the same things that adults do. They want a more flexible schedule, they want less homework (work/life balance). They don’t always see the relevance as they are preparing for a very innovative and flexible workforce.
Why should schools/educators proactively listen to students and work on changing that feeling?
Kids come to school in kindergarten excited to be there. Somewhere along the way there is a loss of this enthusiasm. Teaching and learning is a relationship. Like all relationships it has to be based on honest dialogue.
Teachers and administrators have long shut down these conversations, beginning when we demanded compliance and enforced them through punitive measures. It is our responsibility to create school leadership teams that invite inclusive student voices.
It’s also important to remember that the kids with the best grades are not the only ones with great ideas. Some of our students that struggle with mental health issues, academics, are neurodiverse, and even have behavior issues have great insight and leadership skills.
What types of strategies help to improve how kids feel about school?
All effective strategies must include authentic engagement.
We talk a lot about lack of student engagement, particularly post pandemic. Engagement begins with connection and is developed within a relationship. It is two-sided. There must be a continuous and authentic honest dialogue with a foundation of trust and honesty.
It is up to educators to open the door for honest communication because we shut that door when we demanded compliance. Kids won’t begin to engage meaningfully with adults until they know that they are genuinely interested in their perspective.
Stated more simply, we want kids to engage in school as we designed it for a different generation in a different time in history but we’re not listening to what kinds of support kids need here and now.
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