Want better teaching? How about opening up a creative dialogue on the subject through town-hall-style meetings and teacher evaluations by students, suggests a Mercer Island High School junior.
I AM a high school student and I spend seven hours a day, five days a week in school. So shouldn’t I get a say in how I am being taught?
In many Washington high schools, the classes are so full that almost every core course is taught by at least two different teachers, teaching from the same basic curriculum and textbook. Why, then, is there almost always a favorite between these pairings when they are teaching, more or less, the same course?
According to my peers, favorite teachers allow for student creativity and independence in the classroom. They understand and explain to their students why it is important to learn the curriculum. A favorite teacher is not created by giving easy A’s, but by challenging his or her students and encouraging inquisitiveness. Favorite teachers make every effort to give clear, easily understood instructions and explanations and provide extra help to any student who needs it.
The problem is that these types of teachers are viewed as lucky breaks in education, rather than the norm.
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Great teachers can make their students fall in love with their subject, whereas a bad one can cause an antipathy that could prevent further interest. The subject being taught does not define whether the students will like the class, rather it is the teacher who makes the subject interesting or not.
But what makes a great teacher? “Teaching style” is a term used by many students at my high school to explain why they like some classes more than others. In my experience, the most common teaching styles are classes that are lecture-based, project-based, discussion-based or combinations thereof.
Students learn in different ways and therefore prefer different teaching styles in order to learn to the best of their ability. This is why it is important to vary teaching styles within each class, giving every type of student a chance to learn.
Students who are surprised by new and different things in class each day are far more likely to pay attention than if they come in knowing exactly what to expect and simply go through the motions.
Most students know what makes a good teacher, and even what makes a great one. Unfortunately there is no way for them to communicate this information with the people who need it the most — their teachers.
In many colleges and universities, professors hand out teacher-evaluation forms at various times throughout the year. The evaluations are anonymous and allow students to express ways to improve their classes and give their teachers some insight about how to teach more effectively.
Most cities hold town-hall meetings so that residents have a chance to express their opinions on current issues. This gives city officials an insider view of issues and helps them to question things in a way they might not have previously considered.
Teacher evaluations and town-hall-style meetings are time-proven ways to give feedback and could be easily adapted for high school, middle school and even elementary school. This would provide an opportunity to share ideas among students, teachers, parents and administrators in order to provide the best possible education to students in our state.
I care deeply about my education, and I know that many of my fellow students do as well. On behalf of the students of Washington state, I ask that we be given a chance to help form our education and create learning environments in which everyone has a voice!
Kaya McRuer is a junior at Mercer Island High School.