Ever since the posting of this raw and honest letter, Student X has haunted me. Every lesson plan, every project, every transitional minute, every app, and…well, absolutely everything educational speaks to me through this distinctive voice.
Seriously, the last thing I want is to be an intended recipient of this kind of letter. Not for the sake of my ego or any other selfish reasons, but for the sake of all the students who demand more from today’s classrooms. They deserve to be engaged and to have their passions and interests streamlined with the assigned curricula. In fact, they should be empowered so strongly that their learning experiences resemble kick-butt late-night shows, creative think-tanks, and meaningful learning centers.
Unless you are a relentless fan of mediocrity, these heartfelt words from Student X will shake you to your teaching core, motivate you to ex-out any negativity, and constantly inspire you to bring your “A” game every day.
Dear Boring Teacher,
Do you know me? I’m the sixteen year-old bedecked in hand-me-down Nikes, baggy jeans that reveal a little too much of my Hanes boxers, and a faded t-shirt that says something borderline rebellious to bolster my cool points but under the radar just enough to avoid trouble in school. My name might be Juan, David, Sebastian, Terrance, Niran, or Abdul. Doesn’t matter. Totally irrelevant. But for the sake of moving forward here, let’s just call me Student X. Heck, I feel like a data entry most days anyway.
Do you know me? I sit in the back left corner of your classroom of thirty-five teenagers. If you look beyond my embarrassing acne and disheveled hair, you’ll surely get a glimpse of my zombie eyes. But don’t mistake them. It’s not that I’m geekin’ on some drug of the week. No. Far from it. In fact, if you knew me, my true character, you would know that I detest those poisons. Nah, the glazed-over trance as evidenced by my eyes is strictly boredom induced. You see, it’s simple. I hate your class.
Do you know me? You may find it hard to believe, but I’m quite the creative talent. Rather secretly, of course. It’s not like I get the chance to show it in your classroom. Bet you didn’t know I have my own studio at home, did you? I’m not trying to tell any lies ‘cause you know the truth is that my studio isn’t much to look at. An old Lowe’s outdoor shed the previous renters used to store their lawnmower and yard gear. Well, you know what I did? I ran some extension cords and lights out to my musical get-a-way. Later on, I scored big on a hoard of cupholders from Mickey D’s and tacked those cheap acoustic pieces all over my studio. With help from my more affluent friends, we added the essentials: a laptop with Mixcraft, a couple of old mics, and whatever else we could squeeze into that tiny shack. Even a couple of guitars. Honestly, you might be surprised by my talent. Not to brag, but I play with figures of speech like Kevin Durant toys with opponents with the orange rock in his hand. No matter how you look at it, we both drop it like it’s hot and create the thunder.
Do you know me? Chances are….no. You see, when my afternoons are filled loading our own YouTube channel with jams written and performed by me and my friends, those dang worksheets you drop on my desk every day don’t inspire me too much. Nope! Probably won’t ever hear me say, “That worksheet really changed my life.” Truthfully speaking, I stare back at those sheets with enough anger and frustration that it’s a darn miracle they don’t spontaneously combust. Be kind of funny if they did catch fire, though. Maybe I’d get a little attention while sparking some interest in the class.
Do you know me? I don’t think so. Just curious, though. Why can’t we be creative in your class? Why can’t we take the assigned standards, get with some of our peers, and create to show you what we know? Never can tell. We may just blow your mind. Think about it. Wouldn’t it be awesome to sit back with your grading rubrics and listen and watch as your students amaze you with authentic projects that tap into their own personal interests while mastering the learning concepts? It would be like an educational party. You might even hop out of bed the morning of the presentations with a rekindled spirit for teaching. Lord knows, any flash of excitement or energy would be an improvement from your normal lethargic, I-don’t-want-to-be-here-but-I-have-to persona. Just sayin’. If you need any help getting over your self-imposed impediment for allowing students to be creative, just pretend there is a universal standard that reads like this: “Ignited by the opportunity for creative expression and fueled by talent-based, intrinsic motivation, students will relentlessly pursue higher truths and knowledge to create lives replete with challenges, service, integrity, happiness, fulfillment, and success.” We can call this standard TSBR-US1 (“This Should Be Reality-Universal Standard #1). It may not be too common in many classes, but I promise it will go right to the core of all students’ learning spirits.
Do you know me? I’m a social being. I’m on Twitter, SnapChat, and Instagram. Of course, my favorite form of socializing is simply talking to my friends…face-to-face. You might never know any of this ‘cause I’m quiet as a mouse in your class. I tried the first week to collaborate across the aisle, but my will and the will of my peers was broken by the threat of being written up. Some things just aren’t worth fighting for. Especially if it awards me I.S.S., in-school-suspension, where I will undoubtedly be quiet for at least eight hours. But I get it. I guess you don’t want to lose control of the class. Control…hmmm. What an illusion. The interesting thing is, however, that a class of engaged and excited learners would probably run through a brick wall to prove to you how well they can communicate with their peers and prove their mastery of the standards. That sounds like control to me.
Do you know me? I love technology. Especially my smartphone. In fact, I call it a palmtop. Yep. It can do just about everything I need a laptop to do. There’s just one problem. Rule #1 posted on your classroom wall states, “Absolutely no smartphones allowed. Any visible smartphones will be confiscated and delivered to the office.” I’m quite sure I understand the reasoning behind this rule. I wonder, are you aware of the gazillion apps that could help me organize my thoughts and interact with the assigned content? I mean, Evernote and the Google Drive apps alone could revolutionize my experience at school. If nothing else, they would at least get this backpack full of heavy-as-lead textbooks off my back. But, I know, I know. I hear it all the time. Teachers keep thinking this technology fad will blow over. Maybe you think the same. I’m sure when the automobile was created there were many people unwilling to give up their horses. I can hear them now: “I don’t need no darned auto-mo-bile when I got my trusty horse. Why would I need to get anywhere in an efficient manner?” Yep. They probably thought the new technology-on-wheels would fizzle out. You know…kind of like the light bulb did. Well, since the world now has more smartphones than toilets, perhaps it is time to flush that notion down the drain.
Sorry this letter wasn’t written a bit better. It would certainly be a stronger composition if I were allowed to learn my way. You know, brainstorm with my peers, look up resources on the internet, speak my essay into my phone using Dragon Dictation, and ultimately create a heartfelt essay that would jolt you back into the year 2014. But instead, I simply completed my assigned worksheet in a matter of minutes and spent the remaining class time scratching this out. Bet you didn’t know that.
But maybe you know me by now.
The funny thing is…
I’ll never forget you.
For more blogs by John, check out:
- Want Student Engagement? Stage It and Set the Hook
- Opportunity: The Heart of Passion-Based Learning
- The Front Porch: A Rockin’ Interactive Structure
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