When we consider what kids need from school, we often revert to getting advice from experts – researchers, parents, teachers, principals, administrators. Rarely do we have the chance to hear from students about what they want from their school experience. While out reporting on different stories, NPR Education correspondent Eric Westervelt and I took the opportunity to capture students’ voices. Here’s what they said.

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  • Kaylee Hamelink

    I am a college students at Athens State University in Alabama. While I was listening to this, I realized that these students were saying things that I always wanted in school. I want to be able to incorporate all of the things that these students listed into my future classroom. One common thing that I noticed the students said was they wanted learning to be more fun and less boring. To do that the students wanted the teacher to do more than just talk all the time. This article inspired me to push even harder to be the best teacher I can be in the future and to meet the wants and needs of students.

  • MikeSadofsky

    These kids want what kids get at Sudbury Valley School http://www.sudval.org

  • Bruce Smith

    It’s a shame that listening to students should be an unusual angle for a
    story. I was slightly disappointed as well at the line, “they actually
    had some good ideas.” The idea that young people have “a hunger for
    learning,” that they want “the opportunity to weigh in” and have their
    learning be relevant to their lives is hardly new either.

    Like Mike Sadofsky already said, students at Sudbury schools have been
    getting this kind of opportunity for decades. I’ve worked at one in
    Denver (http://alpinevalleyschool.com) since 1998, and I know “what can
    be done to improve schools”: let students’ innate curiosity, creativity,
    and drive to master their environment be the guiding force in their
    education. Let them practice life now, respect and empower them now.
    Given control over their learning and a say in how their school’s run,
    young people will figure out who they are, what they want, and how to
    achieve their dreams.

    Incidentally, KQED, there’s a Sudbury school in your neighborhood, in Concord: http://www.diablovalleyschool.org. I encourage you to go check them out.

    • tbarseghian

      Thanks for your thoughts Bruce. The point of capturing these students’ voices was precisely because they’re rarely heard in media coverage of education. And these ideas might not be new at exceptional schools like Sudbury, which we’ve covered here on MindShift, but for the most part they’re rare in most public schools, and those are the student voices heard in this recording.
      And thanks for the tip about Diablo Valley School. We’ll definitely look into it!

      • Bruce Smith

        Thanks for the reply. I hope I didn’t come across as overly critical of the story itself: it’s more society’s general attitudes toward youth and education that tend to frustrate me. I definitely appreciate your willingness to cover Sudbury schooling and to give a voice to young people wherever they happen to be. Listening to and respecting our youth is absolutely imperative if we’re to make any real difference in their lives.

        • tbarseghian

          Completely agree! Hope to get even more student voices in our coverage.

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  • This is why so many of us are choosing homeschooling. I offered to homeschool my son the day he said with a sad sigh that he’d love to study Japanese, but he didn’t have time. I wish I could have said to his school, “He wants to study Japanese! He is self-motivated! How can we build on this?” But of course I couldn’t, so I brought him home. He’s now 16, didn’t continue with Japanese but he’s taking community college classes (and getting A’s), involved in a traveling debate club, competing in the science fair and a national rocketry competition… Most of what he’s done in homeschool could be done in more flexible educational environments. But Americans focus on measuring success and making sure that we have some weird version of “equality” rather than helping kids succeed on their own terms. Mine didn’t end up being an Asian language whiz, but he’s years ahead in the subjects he does like. Other kids I know are exploring their interest in arts, science, activism… you name it, while also getting a good education. “Homeschooling,” for us, takes place in our community, with lots of other students both the same age and older. I’d love to see our educational system embrace the messiness and creativity that goes into a good, personalized education, but I can’t imagine that we will until we are willing to admit that standardized tests don’t measure what’s most important.

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  • HopewellKat

    When these students weren’t thrilled with where they landed seventh period, they changed it with open communication and ideas. It’s been a blast. I wish more students had this kind of opportunity.


    On the other side, many of my kids like the structure of traditional classrooms for some subjects, but resent not having time to pursue their passions and interests. Students are always learning. What we think? Rarely. Let’s all give students more voice – at least more than textbook publishers, politicians, and committees and such made up of people (though perhaps well-intentioned) who have no training, but believe ATTENDING school replaces teacher certification in decision making for our children’s education.

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