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Let’s Listen to Students, Not Exclude Them

 

When it comes to education, why don’t students have a voice? The children of New Orleans have gone through so much in the ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated our city. Schools vanished and underwent shifts in bureaucratic controls. A school-grading system closes some schools down and brings new leadership to others, sometimes before the year is even over.

A girl I’ll call Erikka, who attends a local school, says that when it comes to school, she feels she’s just expected to show up and stay quiet. She says she wishes someone would ask her how she feels about what’s happening in her school and classroom.

Erikka says her peers tend to have a “why should I care” attitude because they don’t think their teachers care much about what they have to say.

Erikka says if leaders and other adults in schools don’t bridge the gap and let students know they are valued we will lose a lot of them. We tend to talk around our kids instead of sitting down and actually listening to them. I feel the best approach would be to have a student forum or town hall. The Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board have meetings geared around adults, but when will we allow our children to actually talk and voice concerns? They have questions and comments just as any adult would have.

I sit back and wonder how we can get our children motivated to do their best and know they’re valued. Our children can reach their highest potential if leaders learn to bridge the gap with their trust. We can’t continue in the direction we’re going. When a child knows they mean more to the leader and teacher than just showing up daily, they become excited about what is going on in the classroom.

When Andrew H. Wilson Charter School was taken over last July, the incoming charter management organization took the time to ask students what they needed and wanted in order to succeed. As a result, many things have changed and children are excited. The things we feel children don’t pay attention are the things that motivate them to succeed. The lunch program, extracurricular activities and many other things that we feel come after education are what give our children the push to do well. They know if they perform the best they can in the classroom than they know the reward of being able to participate in sports or band will help them in the long run.

I challenge each teacher, leader and CEO to help bridge this gap and allow our children to have a voice. Make it count.

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