Slice of Life: When Students Question

My students aren’t shy. They tell me what they are thinking, and they ask questions. Sometimes that gets me in trouble and sometimes it stops me in my tracks.

It happened last week. Tia* shared her true essay. Her initial idea was “school is a waste of time.” As she wrote, her idea morphed to “school is something that grownups put on kids.” By the end of her essay, she got to the idea that “adults do school to kids because it was done to them.” She’s pleased with her essay. I’m pleased with her essay. It was a journey of thought that challenged thinking. What more could I ask of a fifth grader?

Tia is the kind of kid that questions rules and structures. She reads. All. The. Time. The only time she willingly closes her book is for read aloud. Anything that isn’t reading or writing fiction is met with protests.Tia essay tugs at my heart. I can’t let it go. While few students can match her reading zeal, many may share her point of view about school. She just the one articulate and bold enough to put it out there.

Thinking about this, I’m reminded of a round table session at NCTE. Each table had  Atlanta middle school students asking teachers questions about school related issues. The students challenged ideas about reading, technology, learning, and social issues like bullying. They asked teachers why and why not. And, they aired their opinions.

Why not organize a similar type of session with our students. They can come up with questions, and we can try to answer. Maybe we can get some ideas.

We’ll start tomorrow by identifying topics that concern them at school. Then, using the Question Formulation Technique protocol they can come up with questions to explore with teachers.

I’ve been wrestling with Tia’s essay. Her bottom line assaults my idea of how I want kids to see school. I realize what I want for students doesn’t always translate. The only way I can get closer to understanding is by openly questioning, listening and perhaps answering each other.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

13 thoughts on “Slice of Life: When Students Question

  1. Thinking like yours is why I am about to start Genius Time with my third graders. I want them to have more time for them in the school day and this is one way. I think sometimes I am too hung up on content and I know that what I want to do more of is teaching kids- this will be one way.

  2. Your students are fortunate to have a teacher as reflective and dedicated as you are, who is willing to listen to their questions and consider how best to address their concerns. That alone is a powerful lesson for them and, in particular, for your student, Tia.

  3. What an astute student is Tia. These types of discussions are perfect for philosophical dialogue in which every participant is equal. Teachers aren’t always the ones with the answers. Tia has shown she is quite capable of working things out for herself.

  4. I love how to participated in an activity in Atlanta and it could have just ended there. You talked, listened and returned home feeling more motivated. But now, you realize you can do it with your students. Enjoy LISTENING!! I think Tia and the other students will grow so much by this forum you are creating!!

  5. Because of you, I am reading Ghost. I just opened to pg. 132 and read “I had learned a long time ago that adults play by different rules.” This line made me think back to your post and Tia. Thanks also for a great book recommendation!

  6. I feel like Tia has a good point. I feel like our education system follows a factory model set up over a century ago and doesn’t truly meet the needs of today’s Americans. Please don’t tell my superintendent, though, because I love my job. 😉

  7. Having the power to talk about concerns may make Tia and others change their minds a little bit. It’s a testament to your own openness to change that you are charging ahead with new ideas to make this different. I still believe choice is so important, and teachers may need to look at curriculum mandates in creative ways.

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