Wit & Wisdom

Game Changers & Tales of Triumph and Woe

How would students rethink education? The list may surprise.

CJ Westerberg, March 6, 2012 2:21 PM


Ed. Note:  Wonderful post.  Student voice.  - C.J. Westerberg

 "A school garden"

How Would Students Rethink Education?

by John T. Spencer
Last year in my Multimedia Authoring class, I asked students to create short projects on school reform.  Their answers were far from revolutionary.  In fact, few of them seemed to want broad, sweeping reforms.  Instead, nearly all of them suggested the following:

  • Better cafeteria food with real ingredients

  • No school buses - nearly every child mentioned the bullying of bus rides as one of the reasons they hated school

  • More choice in their assignments or projects

  • Replace grades with feedback and portfolios (like we did in our class)

  • Staggered start and end times so that the school would "feel smaller"

  • More alternative sports in addition to the traditional ones

  • Off-campus community service once a week

  • Job-shadowing for one month of the year

  • A monthly educational field trip

  • iPads, netbooks or laptops in classes - they even brought up some interesting ways to raise money for these devices

  • More freedom in terms of leaving to use the restroom, eating a snack or getting a drink of water

  • More electives - while most of them agreed that we need math, they suggested that maybe they could choose pre-geometry or pre-algebra or in reading, they could have reading classes geared toward certain topics

  • A school garden

While a few of those might seem large at first glance, the reality is that most students wanted more authenticity and more autonomy.  None of the reforms they suggested involved "back to basics."  None of them included firing all the teachers, either. Instead, they were small, fairly inexpensive reforms that could have been done without the blessing of a politician, pundit or educrat.


John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix Arizona who blogs at Education Rethink, Cooperative Catalyst (where this post first appeared), and Teach Paperless.  His bio statement: "I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically."

Published The Daily Riff August 2011

Bill & Melinda's Field Trips - plus Big Picture Learning

7 Steps for Smarter Schools - Big Picture Learning with Dennis Littky

High School Stinks - with Chris Lehman and Science Leadership Academy

The Daily Riff's "Person of the Year" in Education - Larry Rosenstock - High Tech High

  • I look at this list and see technology as only one element of the mix, yet many items on the list could possibly include tech to facilitate.

    Yet, not necessarily.

  • This is a great list! I would have liked the things on this list when I was a public school student.

blog comments powered by Disqus
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook


Sleepy Teens in School: Does a later "start time" for the school day work better?

CJ Westerberg, 03.14.2014

Liz Bowen, The Baltimore Sun, reports that a group of Arundel mothers deliver petition for national legislation. Caption showing high schoolers for the STEM magnet school catching a school bus at 6:15 A.M.

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories

Thumbnail image for Make Just One Change.jpg

Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions

CJ Westerberg, 02.22.2014

Now, here were college grads looking for jobs, and not recognizing that showing curiosity and asking engaging questions could show MORE about WHO they were than reciting some resume paragraph to interviewers in a random interview. -C.J. Westerberg

Read Post | Comments

Wanted: Teacher, Coach or both?

CJ Westerberg, 02.17.2014

"The coach is the boss of you, but they're not the boss."

Read Post | Comments

Would You Hire Your Own Kids? 7 Skills Schools Should Be Teaching Them

CJ Westerberg, 02.17.2014

Tony Wagner, Former HS teacher, Principal & Co-Director At Harvard School Of Education Posts. "The Ability To Ask The Right Questions Is The Single Most Important Skill."

Read Post | Comments

Is Learning a Sport?

CJ Westerberg, 02.14.2014

Students should not go to school to win - students should go to school to learn.

Read Post | Comments
millennial. cell-phone.jpg

It's Personal: How a Parent Perspective Changes Everything

SMW, 12.09.2013

"For every problem that technology solves, it sort of creates a new one."

Read Post | Comments

American Teacher: responding to students, environments and conditions

SMW, 12.05.2013

"There are very few schools that purposefully try to create lines and connections between different fields. The way most high schools are set up, you're in history class, and then the bell rings; then you go to science class, and then the bell rings."

Read Post | Comments

PISA Test Results are in: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

SMW, 12.03.2013

"If Pisa measures anything, it is the ability to do Pisa tests. Aligning policy along a single performance indicator can be damaging. We need to look at the whole picture." - David Spieghalter, the Winton professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge

Read Post | Comments
Finland. Finnishflag.BobCompton.jpg

The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World's Most Surprising School System

CJ Westerberg, 12.02.2013

New update December 2, 2013 which includes Yong Zhao link and comments PLUS CNN videos

Read Post | Comments

More Featured Posts