Students as Evaluators

I recently saw a blog post by a young mother whose kindergartener had gotten in trouble at school. When asked what he had done, the little man promptly replied that he told the teacher his assignment was stupid. Mom looked at the assignment, said something about how we can’t say things like that to our teachers, then agreed (in her head) with her son’s assessment of the assignment.
Last night, my massage classmates and I were chatting about life and growing up, when one of them mentioned he had been kicked out of band in the sixth grade. I asked him HOW in the WORLD does a person get kicked out of band in the sixth grade? I mean, this guy is the sweetest, quietest guy with absolutely wonderful energy about him. How could HE get kicked out of band? It seems he felt the task at hand was stupid and they were all being held back (to half note speed) for the sake of the less advanced instrumentalists. Apparently he made his feelings known and then paid a price. What a loss for the world of music!
How often do educators give an assignment or task to a child without helping a child see the benefit of the assignment? Yes, I know, kids don’t get to run the show, yet in American education, we use a model, which is about as old as the US Constitution. As an aside, it should be noted that we have had much greater success adhering to an archaic education model than we have had adhering to our blessed Constitution.
Kids want the same thing I want. They want things to be authentic, valuable, and worthy of their time and effort whether they are 5 years old, or 16 years old. Adults who are assigned employment tasks that are too easy, too difficult, or seemingly pointless will either get sick or simply quit.
My number 3 daughter literally threw up the first two days of school this year and was sick at her stomach the rest of the first week. No bugs….just a total lack of interest to the point of resenting it. She has a really cool teacher who truly understands the need to be authentic with the kids, however, Number 3 doesn’t play the game well, and she will tell you and show you if she thinks it is a stupid waste of her valuable time and energy. Halfway through the year, she is doing much better, because she has a teacher who is able to cut the crap and get down to what is truly important.
How many of us know a brilliant kid who dropped out (or seriously underperformed their potential) because they simply refused to play the game? They are true to themselves, yet are unwilling to comform for comformity’s sake. Some go on to become great entrepreneurs. Others go on to become acquainted with the prison system.  If they are tough enough to take it, they succeed. If they are beaten down and made to feel stupid, they succumb to mediocrity or worse.
Education doesn’t typically honor being authentic, unique, and different. Education tends to honor average conformity. Education favors straight rows, standardized tests, logic dominant thinking, and a “do-as-you’re-told” compliance. The teacher who steps out of that mold and truly honors his/her students in a way that allows them to be authentically themselves takes a huge risk, yet gives an invaluable gift to students. Those kids love that teacher no matter how difficult the assignment. Kids evaluate teachers every day, with no formal assessment instrument required. That teacher will get glowing recommendations for generations to come. Administrative evaluators would do well to take note of kid evaluations.
How would you respond to a student who says an assignment is stupid? Does student feedback reflect on the teacher? How can we engage those students who aren’t willing to play the game?How does this relate to our parenting skills? Do our children sometimes think we have assigned them meaningless and useless tasks? How can we improve that situation? Chime in everybody!

One Response to “Students as Evaluators”

  • Ladonna Martin:

    I don’t have the answers to your questions, but I can say that my oldest son is the king of mediocrity for all of the reasons that you mention here. I am proud to report that he is emerging from his 20-year-old funk to re-enter the battle of becoming a successful and productive adult. He hates conformity but is beginning to find alternatives that still work for him.

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