A student asked me today about my blog. "Don't you write it for teachers?"
I've never specifically thought about my target audience much, but yeah, I suppose most posts are for teachers. It's not that I'm specifically avoiding writing for students, I just don't think I'm the right person to target the 16-year-old-girl demographic. Which made it all the more surprising when my recent post about homework was not only read by some students, but shared by them. I had three different girls stop me in the hallway and say they really liked the post, and one even went so far as to tell her teacher to read it too.
In that post, I specifically avoided suggesting that teachers should never give homework. If I had said that, it would be obvious why my students agreed so strongly. Instead, I simply suggested that teachers should be more aware of the realities their students face. The fact that students responded so positively to that message tells me they would welcome the chance to engage their teachers in this line of dialogue.
When I was in high school, one of my classmates asked our World History teacher why he never gave surveys to the students at the end of the year like other teachers did. His response: "What does a 16-year-old know about education?" While he may have been particularly blunt, his opinion wasn't rare. Most of my colleagues now are more open-minded than that, but that attitude persists. And yes, after almost ten years of teaching, I do know more about education than my students, but that doesn't mean some of them don't spend time thinking about how they learn just as I think about how I teach.
So whether it's homework or grading policies, I've started more frequently asking students what they think. "How long did this assignment take you? How much do you think it should be worth? What's a good assignment to finish up this unit?" It's not that I've given over my lesson-planning to my students, and I still override them pretty frequently, but I'm definitely a better teacher now that I'm able to have those conversations with them. My first few years of teaching I didn't always have that confidence to ask their opinion, but after a few years of being humbled in the classroom, that's no longer an issue. I welcome their take, and it's often more thoughtful than I'd expect.
Which takes me back to my conversation this morning:
"Don't you write it for teachers?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Why?"
"It just seems like the teachers who need to read it the most probably won't."
We try to teach our students to be "open to growth", and we teachers need to model that too. I don't think there's anything special about my blog, but I'm definitely a better teacher for having sought out a variety of opinions. Yes, even (especially) those of teenagers.