Educators are trained to provide students with the help they need to thrive both academically and socially. It’s important, however, to recognize that our experiences may be, and most likely are, very different from what our students experience today.
I recently interviewed over 40 teens in grades 6 through 12 and asked them, “What do you need from schools to feel supported both academically and socially?” I share their responses, both honest and illuminating, here.
Teachers who take the time to learn about their students as individuals send a clear message that they care about them. Students say the best teachers ” really care … and actually want to help the students rather than just stand up and give a lesson,” (11th grader). “I know I learn better with teachers I like, teachers I feel I can trust,” (9th grader).
Students said knowing where and when to find help was a key component in feeling supported. One senior said being able to “get connected with who you need and having a lot of resources” was one way his school helped him succeed.
Adults should step in when they see students struggling if the teens do not initiate the conversation.
Teens are savvy. They know when an assignment is busy work. “They [teachers] should give you more important homework that actually focuses on the topic,” (8th grader).
Teens want teachers to spend time exploring the different strategies so that they can feel confident about deciding which strategies to use and when.
Between schoolwork and busy schedules, “there’s not a lot of time hang out with your friends,” say several 9th graders.
Schools should create structured opportunities for teens to socialize with the entire school community and to “bond” with students outside their typical social groups.
“Kids have to learn how to do it themselves. When we go out into the real world, we’re not going to have adults there helping us. We’re going to have to do it ourselves,” (7th grader).
Adults should create safe spaces, activities, and opportunities that allow teens to work through a process independently.
Just asking teens, “how can I help?” or “what do you need from me?” is the first step in determining what teens need from schools.
Excerpted from “Here’s What Teens Say They Need” by Jody A. Marberry, math teacher at Mathematics Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis, Missouri. Read the full article in ASCD Express for details and recommendations for each of the findings.