What do students want? Let’s ask them.

You know at the front of the student planner where we post 1 million rules that mainly refer to what students must and must not do? Yeah those ones.

Well how about we did a flip-a-roo and added some student created guidelines around what we adults and school should do? I started to make a list of things that I thought student’s would ask for and then thought that’s dumb, I should just ask my students!

So today I asked each of my 3 classes for their input; what would they like to see at school?; what matters most to them?;what do they wish they could change?;what are their pet-peeves? So below is what I got, most of the requests were not surprising. What did surprise me was how taken aback students were that I was asking them for their input. Keep in mind as you read that my students are grade 12 (17-18 year olds).

Lastly, I transcribed these and am just offering them up for discussion. I am not suggesting this list as is turn into hard-line school policy, nor as criticism; I was just curious to hear what students felt and thought.

Do you know what your student would say?

So here are the student requests unedited and in no particular order:

1. Toilet paper, soap, and hot water in all bathrooms.

2. A place to sit to eat lunch.

3. No name calling or animal sounds directed at them as they walk in the hall.

4. Tests returned to them in a reasonable amount of time.

5. Receive more notice prior to a major test (at least one week).

6. Receive a test outline that specifies the test format and topics.

7. Access to healthy and affordable food items.

8. Right to eat and drink in class for optimal brain function (and reminder to clean up after themselves).

9. No enforced seating plans.

10. No forced group activities or at least omit ones that involve getting a group mark.

11. No worksheets worth huge amounts of points that everyone copies from one another.

12. No enforced homework for marks.

13. Give students ownership of the learning. It is ours not yours!!

14. Tests returned to students to keep so they can review and study from them.

15. No bonus marks for dressing up for theme day or bringing food items for the food drive.

16. Provide meaningful feedback on written work (not just a mark).

17. Test what you teach.

18. Provide opportunities for re-tests (with parameters).

19. Common re-test policy among all teachers.

20. Follow outline, to avoid cramming large amount of material at the end of the semester.

21. Freedom to go to the bathroom when you need to.

22. Understand that social media is not all bad and can be used for learning.

23. Don’t extend deadlines for one student when everyone else has already handed the assignment in without providing a reasonable explanation.

24. Provide opportunity for 100% final so students can improve their final mark in a course.

25. Provide direct answers to student questions about class work and expectations.

26. Avoid placing student teachers in important senior classes (where mark relates to post-secondary entrance).

27. Don’t just emphasis university prep, some students might be headed into trades other.

28. Dress and act professionally.

29. Avoid quizzes that have a high percent value on the overall course percent.

30. Be sincere.

5 thoughts on “What do students want? Let’s ask them.

  1. It’s definitely interesting to ask students what they want. Some of these don’t surprise me at all, but some of the suggestions dug a little deeper. Some of my favourites being:

    13. Give students ownership of the learning. It is ours not yours!! (YES!)
    16. Provide meaningful feedback on written work (not just a mark). (I often felt that students were not reading comments I spent hours writing)
    25. Provide direct answers to student questions about class work and expectations. (Students deserve to know exactly what we expect of them – this also forces us to consider exactly what we do expect of them.)
    27. Don’t just emphasis university prep, some students might be headed into trades other. (Absolutely agree.)
    30. Be sincere. (I am all about creating a classroom environment built on this.)

    All interesting. And upon reflection of my own experiences, a comment from one student stands out. He was explaining to me that he loved the Chemistry unit of his Science 9 course (taught by a different teacher) because he was good at it. All they had to do was pull out the textbook, read a couple paragraphs and do the questions. He questioned why we couldn’t do that for the Biology unit I was teaching them. I really struggled with that because I did not feel that there would be “true” learning value in this. In this case, did the student know what he needed or was my opinion of what he needed his education to look like more “valid”? How can we get students to consider what they actually want to get out of their education? Some would inform me they were just there to get through it and do enough to graduate. I chose to expect much more of my students than that.

    • Hi Taylor, thanks for the comment 🙂
      I know exactly what you mean with your example: Do students ‘really’ know what the want? This is a hard one, but i think it is finding the right balance between: 1. providing choice for students to choose how they want to learn and 2. creating an exciting and enriching classroom environment that invites them to try new activities. I know with senior students that letting them choose goes further than pushing them into a learning experience they are not ready for. I know for me it was/is hard to let go, but in the long run it seems to increase the possibility that the student might make an authentic choice for themselves. I think if we encourage, invite and provide the environment then we can step back and watch, support and monitor. But it is a balance between letting go and keeping a watchful eye.
      I think you are right to expect more, keep expecting more, I know students will grow into your expectations.

  2. Carolyn,

    I loved that you asked the students. I wish more of us did that. Thanks for sharing the responses. One big thing struck me overall, and I mean this with the greatest respect to all of your student responders. I found it interesting how many responses seemed to assume that school has to be a certain way at its core. So many of the responses seemed analogous to horse and buggy travels asking for better bridles, better wagon wheels, etc. But what about the ones that say, “Hey, what if we used something completely different than an actual horse? What if we used steam and pistons to turn the wheels? What if we strapped ourselves to something like the wings of birds and flew off the ground altogether?”

    I don’t mean that in any way as criticism, but I guess I do mean it as critique. Why did more of them not seem to dream “bigger” about an entirely different model? Is “school” that much of an entrenched concept?


    1. First, I might blow up the traditional subjects as curriculum. School is the only place we seem to separate the various lenses through which we see the world. I’d like to mash up the subjects and put the lenses back together in the multi-faceted way that they exist naturally – like gems. Curriculum as the actual “track of life” – challenges and projects and problems that call on the integrated parts of the whole.

    • Hi Bo,
      I have been reflecting on this comment for awhile.

      First it made me consider the importance of perspective. I realized that when I started this conversation with my students I directed their attention towards what is wrong with education right now. This point of view gave rise to the overall flavour of the student suggestions. I have come to recognize that in my own change evolution it is sometimes (often times) my own point view that traps me the most. When I keep my eyes on what is wrong, it feels like getting trapped and strangled in deep thick grass, I am unable to find my way out. When I lift my view up and look way out, way way out, into what is possible, I am often able to find a way out, over or around the hurdles that I let limit my growth. Perspective matters. Does that make sense?

      Secondly it reminded me again, the importance of dreaming and nurturing dreams. I have been considering a lot lately how little we invite students to dream, big, bold, loud and audacious. I think this invitation and creating space that is safe to dream is the work I feel most called to do right now.

      I want to go back and revisit the conversation with my classes with a renewed and fresh point of view.

      Thanks for causing me to reflect and pushing me to find the direction I need to go,

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