This is the online stream for sharing conversations that happened throughout the Greater Bay Area from March through June 2012 around the question:

How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?

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Listening To What Students Want!

By: Jennyann Carthern                                                                                                              www.paintisthickerthanwater.com

Today I had an intriguing conversation with one of my middle school students at an after school program. Star Testing was this week, and she didn’t have any homework.  So she started a conversation with me, and I  listened.

She began telling me about her life in Louisiana, and the crawfish to corn ratio. Basically a bucket of crawfish and one piece of corn. That’s what she said! During our conversation, she wanted me to know how much she didn’t like her middle school and how her school in Louisiana was way better. “I might go back” She said.  I told her if she went back, she’d have to move.

She didn’t care; she loved her School, her Teachers, and even her Principle. She even loved the learning process.  I wanted to know more! I wanted to know what made her school in Louisiana so great. I did what I do best, I asked her. What can I say, in order to get answers, we need to ask questions!

Well, she said, “Every day, I’d ride the bus to school, and everyone on the bus would race for clothespins.” Sort of clueless to what she meant, she elaborated some more for me, and told me that when students arrived to school, they’d run off the bus, and race to an assortment of different colored clothes pins on a line, that the Principal had set up. The students, who had collected the most, used these pins for incentives throughout the day.

Later she mentioned that every month, the Principle and Teachers had formed teams with their classes, I assume it was based on their subject areas, since it was a middle school.  Students then competed in a series of relay competitions that happened monthly, with  Teachers and  the school Principle.  Each part of the relay was different; they even had a tie die station, where they couldn’t advance unless they made a tie die t-shirt.

As our conversation was slowing down, I said to her. “So, what you’re telling me, when you say, you liked your other school better. You’re saying that everyone participated.”

She said “Yes!”

It’s interesting what we can learn, just by listening to students. Students know what kind of education they want. So why it is that adult’s aren’t inviting them into the conversation. We often say that students need to be heard! Well hearing, starts by listening.

Did you know that, “Silent” and “listen” are spelled with the same letters. Huh! something to think about…

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