April 12, 2016 by treyw97
Relationships and Choice/Interest
I had the opportunity to chat with some amazing students from McKinney North HS about the work they are doing in their classrooms. The students ranged from Freshman to Senior. We talked about teachers, fellow students, and their many assignments. As each group of amazingly well prepared and eloquent students rotated through, the two common themes I heard in all their voices were relationships and choice.
As a former Middle School and Elementary Math teacher, I’ve experienced the importance of relationships in the classroom. I’ve witnessed students working harder for me than in other classes after attending a Volleyball or Football game, Choir performance, Black Belt Ceremony, or the umpteenth performance of Our Town. Fellow teachers would ask how I got such great work out of the football players and game attendance was my answer each and every time. You reap what you sow. The MNHS Bulldogs confirmed this construct as they spoke about not wanting to let their teacher down. They attend tutoring after school to get extra help so they are “Whitney or Tyrone” instead of the kid in the back or the student on the 3rd row. They spend more time on assignments that get handed in to a teacher that really sees them. How often in education do we sacrifice relationships to the Timezilla or the Standardsasaurus? I think we’ve gotta bet win to win big here. Time spent on relationships will only improve time spent on content.
Student Choice and Student Interest are two ever so powerful tools for engagement in the classroom. The ability to choose how one demonstrates mastery of a concept is powerful. Especially when I have the freedom to choose a medium that I am insanely interested in. One High School student shared that the classes he worked hardest in were his electives. I asked what his electives were and he responded with Spanish and Debate. Later in our discussion we talked about meaningful work. Work that engaged to the point of time flying by and persistent preparation. He quickly told me about a literature debate that had happened several weeks ago that he poured his heart and soul into. Meaningful work met interest. Later in our discussion we talked about the amount of work and all the things that stole his time outside of school. He expressed his frustration with conflicting deadlines and the amount of work expected of him. He excitedly talked about one class that the students were able to discuss and plan for the deadline for a project. He was extremely happy that the deadline could be moved to accommodate other projects and responsibilities. He felt like he was heard and his choice mattered. I asked about the quality of the work he produced for this project and he shared his desire to do his very best to honor the decision he helped make and the teacher’s willingness to let them choose.