1. Teacher Life

If students could graduate from school early, would they?

I was lucky enough to record a conversation (coming out soon) with Christina Tondevold, and she had discussed her children. Paraphrasing as best as I can from memory, she had shared that one of her children could struggle in school and sometimes become disruptive in the classroom. Yet, on the other hand, her children could sit in class, do what they had to do, but they were bored and didn’t necessarily enjoy school.

I posed the following:

“If a student is doing well academically and would have the option to accelerate through school to graduate as soon as possible, would they? If they would, they probably do not see school as valuable, and as nothing more than a checklist.”

Think about that. If students see school as a place where they can develop their talents and gifts, and find value beyond friendships, would they not want to stay longer?  

Creating spaces and schools that our students’ value is hard work but not impossible. I believe the solution lies in us. Even though it is hard, it is possible. I discuss this extensively in “Innovate Inside the Box” but here is a snippet:

No one is pretending that every day is going to be easy—even if you are an innovative educator. The reality is that the length of a school day has remained basically the same since I was a student myself in the 1980s. All the while, the demands for what teachers are responsible for have grown exponentially. I’m also not suggesting that you work longer hours; you need to take care of yourself emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally if you are going to be able to serve your students. I am proposing that you begin to think differently about how you do things and that you look for ways to make each day meaningful and rewarding for your students and for yourself.

A couple of things.

1. I intentionally distinguish between “academically gifted” and “smart.” Some of the brightest students in school do not do well academically, and some of our academically gifted students do well on what school deems and measures as essential.

2. Whether students do well academically or not, we must create a space where they see school as valuable to their growth and development and see the value of what they are doing now, not as a step to the next phase of their lives.

The “process” of school should be more valuable than the product.

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