Students’ opinions matter!

[Response to Cushman’s “Fires in the Bathroom.”]

First, I have to say this book is amazing. Just the entire thought process behind this book really hits home with me. Think of all the pedagogy, theory, composition, and literature courses people take as they pursue their degrees. Now, how many of those courses actually focus on the students’ voice and take into account what the students think, feel, and believe? Chances are  unless you tailor your program of study or assignments with this focus, the students’ side sort of gets pushed aside. Yet, as educators, we need this information, this student voice, to help us learn how to best teach our students. And personally, I think this is something we all need to evaluate and include in our studies and practices. 

I really like many of the ideas that the students present in their accounts, particularly about freewriting. This is described as “journaling” in the book, but essentially is the same thing as freewriting (at least in my opinion!). The writing is not graded for right vs. wrong, but instead for the fact that something was done. Not only will this activity allow teachers insight into outside factors that could be affecting their students, but it gets kids writing and reflecting and creating a place where they can make meaningful connections to the real world and what they are learning in class. 

Tying back to my earlier post, I found one student’s comment on self-respect another example of how teachers can influence their students, whether they realize it or not. The student says, “If you just keep teaching, you will eventually reach someone” (23). This comment makes me feel hopeful! As educators, we can and we do make a difference in our students’ lives. However, if we are to make the difference, we have to acknowledge who are students are and ultimately learn somethings from them as well.

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