By Mark Heintz

I’ve been talking to a lot of students about learning.  I ask them what they want and how teachers can better create conditions to maximize learning and better serve them.  Two conversations stick out.  I asked them both to write out their responses.  They are very different and very honest.  I’m stuck here thinking what to do next.  They are pushing my thoughts and I wanted to see what others thought.  Please leave your comments, ideas, or reactions if you care to share.

Student A

When receiving our PSAT scores, every student looks at one another and mouths or straight out asks what the others got. We compare our scores and internally we judge ourselves based on these scores. I was taught to base myself on a number and I do exactly that. Every day, twice a day, I check my grades and obsess over studying to get that number. To be brutally honest, I get frustrated due to the fact that in classes, when grades are not put in right away or soon after I hardly know where I stand academically. I will obviously still try in classes due to the fact that I am addicted to learning (or rather memorizing), but that doesn’t change the fact that I am a number since that’s how I view myself.

Student B

I want school to be a place where I love to go to every day. A place where learning is new, innovative, and exciting. I love class when the teachers aren’t so worked up on everyone getting high standardized test scores and where we are constantly being told: “this is good practice for the SAT”. When learning feels natural and not like all the content is being forced into my brain I have a tendency to remember it more. However, I also realize that I don’t always fully grasp what I’m supposed to be learning because l will try and memorize all the stuff I was just taught so I can take a test or quiz on it, but then I forget it later or don’t remember how to apply what I’d just learned to the new content. Truthfully I think what I really want school to be is a place where I can learn new things without being worried all about what score/grade I’m going to get and rather worrying about how I can use what I just learned to make my life (or someone’s else’s) better.

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