Innovation Ecosystem

Watered like a seed, not burned by stress

Student views on education, captured by a 17-year-old high school student in Providence

Photo by Richard Asinof

If we were to listen to what students have to say about their experiences, how would that change the focus of how the state grapples with developing future plans for education?

By Chloe Moers
Posted 12/10/18
For all the gnashing of teeth and the throwing up of hands [and even of chairs], the responses to results from the most recent standardized tests do not capture what students think about their own education.
Why are there no students on the recent panel created by The Rhode Island Foundation to develop a 10-year state plan for education? Why have so many colleges abandoned SATs as a measurement tool for admissions? Why has Infosys put its emphasis on recruiting humanities and arts students as the kind of workers they want to train in design to succeed in the 21st century innovation economy? Is the R.I. General Assembly willing to make more investment in building up the public education system? How much of the so-called problems with the educational testing regiments are related to health equity issues, segregation and racism?
So much of what passes for knowledge about the current educational system in Rhode Island is built upon a house of political cards, with ideological blame throwers ready to torch the usual suspects: teachers, teachers’ unions, parents, administrators, the state bureaucracy. The results of the latest standardized test scores served as more fuel to throw on the bonfires of the politically vain.
Just as health care providers often do not “listen” to what patients have to say, many times, teachers, administrators and legislators appear not to be interested in what students have to say. There have been new studies linking the use of EHRs and the extra demands of an ever-increasing inbox with physician burnout, particularly for primary care providers. Is there research about similar burnout related to standardized tests?
Just as it takes courage to stand up and say “no” to a doctor, it also takes courage for a student to stand up and voice his or her concerns to a school administrator. The least we can do is to include students and make them participants in the conversation.

Editors Note: In all the hubbub about student performance on the most recent standardized test scores, everyone seems to have chimed in: politicians, commentators, elected officials, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the editorial board of The Providence Journal. Excluded from the conversation, it seems, have been students.

Adults, advocates and elected officials may want to pay attention to what the students are saying.

PROVIDENCE – “The education system reminds me of prison, it feels like there’s no more learning or new experiences to be had, you just have an assignment and are told to do it,” says MET student Elias Turner.

Right now we live in a time where the government cares more about test scores than touching the heart of each individual student.

Kids do not care about test scores but they do care about their future and, because of this, they work themselves to a point of no sleep, no socialization and no energy left in order to get a score that they are told will get them into a good college.

School has been turned into a place of judgment, a place of comparing apples to oranges, instead of helping to spark that passion within each student so that they can grow up to be happy and healthy individuals, doing what they are meant to do.

Wired differently
Every student is given the same program and graded upon the same criteria, leaving some students at the top and others at the bottom just because their brains are wired differently, just because they are different.

MET student Jerelle thinks that: “The teachers don’t get paid enough. The lunches are terrible. The work is not engaging. No one wants to sit and write a paper on something they don’t care about.”

He is absolutely correct. Teaching is one of the most important jobs on the planet for it contributes to the growth of a nation. Teachers have the ability to touch students’ hearts and minds in a way that can make all the difference, as students get older.

Teachers are responsible for helping people unleash what they have within, in order for there to be leaders – and for there to be peace, change and stability in future years.

Inflammatory foods
The lunches are also not nutritious; they are filled with inflammatory foods and pesticides. The students in all the high schools and middle schools I’ve been to complain about how the milk is frozen, how the food is tasteless and how the fruit tastes off.

Public schools are not allowed to refuse to have milk on their lunch menu unless they are willing to no longer have government assistance for lunch.

Milk is the number-one food inflammatory and is linked to acne, cancer and more, yet it is still served at lunch.

Many public schools do not even give the option to have flouride-free filtered water instead of a milk carton.

Public schools still are not forced to serve alternative dietary options such as a hot plant-based lunch or gluten-free breads. And, so much food is wasted every day by schools, food that could be given to the homeless.

Little boxes to be filled in
Standardized tests do not help kids grow; they put them in a box, comparing each student as if they were produce. Kids are not always going to be a straight line, sometimes the paths may curve or zigzag.

MET student Annie Reall says: “[School] should be more focused on learning and less on tests.”

Everyone learns differently and everyone has different talents, passions and abilities. Not every student is able to perform well on tests. No student is capable of being represented through a multiple-choice question about Thomas Jefferson.

A loss of self
Standardized tests result in students losing their sense of self. That’s what happened with me, whenever I stepped out of a standardized test or a test in general, I felt lost, depressed and I felt like my rights as being my own individual had been violated.

“They force kids to become what they don’t want to become. Kids pursue careers they are not passionate in. It lacks motivation,” said MET student Raynier Zruz.

Not everyone has the mind to become a doctor, lawyer, computer scientist, or banker. There are artists, poets, painters, philosophers, writers, storytellers and more that are being ignored through the common core and through the education system that is inflicted on students.

Students have voices; they must be listened to. It is our future, our sanity and our health that are in the hands of this country when we are in school. We are more than a number on a piece of paper. We each have a name, we each have feelings, and we each have our own mission that needs to be watered like a seed, not burned by stress.

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