Dear future President,
Struggling through your high school core classes to make it to where you may be now. Sitting in a quiet room where besides the teacher's voice, you could hear a pin drop. The longest 41 minutes of your life. Trying to find the answer in the shortest amount of time given and then to crumble when you’re told it’s wrong. Maybe it’s because you don’t understand, and everyone’s going so fast. No one is taking time to check up on you. Or maybe it’s simply because you’ve just lost interest in the subject. I’m sure you can recall the tingling in your hand as it started to cramp because it was notes after notes, or those last few seconds of class where if you skimmed the room, you could see everyone was jittery and beyond ready to leave. Many kids across America feel the same way now as you did long ago. Give the students a choice. I say give the students a choice and let them have a say in their own education.
According to Edudemic, letting students choose the topic they want to learn about can cause less stress on a student and make them happier and more excited about going into school. “The psychological effects of feeling a sense of control are well-documented and include greater levels of happiness and activity and lower levels of stress and anxiety. Educational research has shown that choice leads to more confident, more capable, and more interested students.” It makes sense that students who are not interested in the class they are taking, let their minds wander and have no interest in that class. According to oecd.org our country performed below average in mathematics in 2012, ranked 27th. We rank close to but still below OECD average in science and reading. We rank 17th in reading and 20th in science. A myriad of students cry because the load of stress tossed onto their shoulders by the learning goals for some unwanted but mandatory classes is overwhelming. Students often become tired, increasingly irritated with siblings and suffer headaches. Almost 40 percent of parents say their high-schooler is experiencing a lot of stress from school, according to a new NPR poll conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. In most cases the poll found, that stress is from academics, not social issues or bullying. May this be telling us that something isn’t right?
The way schools are running now, teachers are handing out packet after packet of just notes notes notes and students are beginning to take it as a joke. Some students are beginning to skip class, “lose” work or start to more often come up with the excuse “oh I left it at home” just because they didn’t feel the need to do it. Teachers most likely see more drawings of popular patterns then an answer or even an attempt of an answer on a worksheet. If the students aren’t taking their own education seriously, then the parents will start to believe, “ Maybe she is right..” and then not only will the students be falling behind, but now they don’t have as much support from a parent as they would if it was a subject that the student cared about.
Another thing is that these classes are instructing teachers to give work to students even though the work could be irrelevant to the NYS (New York State) tests that come at the end of these 10 months of preparation. I’m almost certain that if you have a student take 5 of the same test 5 different times, the outcome will be different all because they are uninterested in the class which assigned the test. The reason they have different outcomes is most likely because they are guessing on questions. The student could know the process to getting the right answer, guess, and get it totally wrong all because they just want to get the test over with. And some students simply just don’t test well. They could get very good grades during class and then totally bomb their next test. Teachers and administration make such a big deal about these tests and kids become nervous, causing them to under perform.
Of course you could argue the fact that all of the class work we give to the students help them perform better and helps us narrow down what we may need to teach, or even could help a teacher check up on a student. There are however many positives to letting a student pick electives. They will be committed to the class they choose and want to strive.
Alfie Khon http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/choices-children/ September 1993
Amanda Ronan http://www.edudemic.com/7-ways-to-hack-your-classroom/
March 20, 2015