Last weekend I attended a great conference put on by EdSurge and several leading connected educators in the St. Louis area. It was a day full of immense possibilities. Each edtech company represented had a great product and the representatives were brimming with ideas on how to implement the tools into class. Amazing. My head was spinning from all of the new things that I was learning as I walked around the room talking to company reps, inventors, teachers and innovators.
During lunch there was a student panel that answered questions from teachers about classroom climate, teaching and learning, and what modern-day education should look like. I love listening to kids talking about their school environment and their learning because we can always learn from them. The students were bright and articulate and talked about a range of issues from the classroom comfort to the relationships that teachers build with students.
I assume that all of these kids excel at school. They all talked about their success in school in one form or another. As they were talking, I wondered, "What would the kids who are NOT successful at school say if they had the chance to address teachers?" Now, we probably will never know at an event like the EdSurge conference because they probably would not give up a Saturday to come in to a place where they feel so unsuccessful. Still, I wondered, "What about the other kids?"
Would the other kids feel that having couches in the classrooms would make a big difference in their learning? The schedule or the courses offered? I doubt it. Kids who are borderline (not successful, considering dropping out) probably would care if there was a couch in the room much less than if there was an advocate for them in the room. I'm not exactly sure what they would say but I do THINK they would say that they don't see an adult in the building who has their back, who has built a solid relationship with them and champions their learning above all else. Is it fair to expect these kids to care about school when it has been demonstrated to them time and again that school does not care about them? A couple of the kids on stage at EdSurge hit the nail on the head: it all comes back to relationships.
Kids MUST have adults in the building who consider the students their very own kids. What parent is going to want less-than-the-best for their own child? If we change the paradigm to think of our students as our own children, then we will not accept less-than-the-best for them either. Then, those students who are borderline, at-risk and considering dropping out, will have an adult to champion THEM and finally, they will be able to find success at school.
Schools must personalize the learning for each student. We must identify the kids' strengths and work to develop those strengths. After all, those strengths represent the areas in which those kids will be working for the rest of their lives. If we can find out what drives kids, treat them like our own children and always be there to help them succeed, then ALL kids will be able to succeed in school.