You Do Have A Choice

In the last couple of days, I have come to the decision that I will be primarily focusing on trying to get students to take control of their education. I’m not completely sure of how I’ll do this, but I know now that I want to provide them with a concrete way that they can gain some control over their educational experience. A few days ago I sat with my mentor Emily, and we came up with some questions that I could ask students to try and begin to figure out what views students have on their education. Here are the questions I asked:

  1. What would your ideal education look like?
  2. What about taking your education into your own hands scares you?

The reason I only asked two questions was because I felt that out of the list I came up with, these two would provide me with the information most relevant to what I was trying to get at, and I wanted to test them out before I modified them and came up with a few more. I was also incredibly curious to see what would stop students from taking control over their learning, whether it be parents, personal issues, etc. I was also curious as to what people envisioned when I asked what their ideal education would be like. I wondered if the people that would answer “the same as it is now” actually liked their situation, or just didn’t think about all of the possibilities.

I made sure to ask a variety of people, meaning that I asked people who I knew did really well in the traditional system, people who I knew hated it, people in the same alternative learning program as me, people in different alternative learning programs such as the Big Picture school in South Burlington, and kids from other schools, too. The answers I got were very interesting.

I got a lot of people saying that they were afraid that if they were to take control of their education and make a huge mistake that it would effect their future and that they would have nothing to fall back on because it was completely their decision. I also got some people talking about how they feel confined, and that they want to learn outside of the classroom and “have experiences that will be useful for the future rather than simply preparing for the future”. There were also a fair amount of people who, to question 1, answered something along the lines of “mostly what it is now” which left me with the question I wrote about in the second paragraph, when I talked about how I was curious as to if people with that answer actually didn’t want their situation to change very much, if at all, or didn’t realize the possibilities. Other than that, I got a lot of answers about classes being not entirely based on memorization, connecting with teachers more, having more control over required classes, and wanting to be almost entirely self-directed. One of the last people that I asked these questions to said something that really resonated with me, because it is something I thought about a lot before joining the alternative program that I’m in. They said they were afraid that people wouldn’t take them seriously because everyone believes that public school is the right choice and will do the most for you. I think this is a point I will continue to focus on as I progress.

I was really surprised that I didn’t get anyone talking about how their parents would prevent them or encourage them to be independent in their education if they were given the choice,  but I think that’s just because my questions were not specific to external influences, which is something I may modify for the future. Taking this into consideration, after I received most of these answers I came up with a list of questions I could ask in the future:

  1. If you were able to join a program where you could design your own education, what are some things that might stop you from being successful in doing this?
  2. (Continuation of first question) How might your parents feel if you chose to pursue this?
  3. What excites you about taking your education into your own hands?
  4. Who has had power over your education? Who would you rather hold that power?
  5. If there were a concrete way to gain control over your education, would you?

These are not final. These are just a couple questions that I feel would help me look into the minds and perspectives of other students so I can gauge how okay they are with their current situation, if they would like it to be different, and what is holding them back from actively seeking out change. In the near future I would also like to flip some of these questions and ask them to some parents. For example, I could ask “what scares you about your child taking control of their learning?” and “What would be your hope for them if they were to do so?” I might even go as far as to ask them if they would even allow their child to do such a thing.

To sum it all up, I want to get it across to students that they do have a choice in what their education looks like, and I am going to actively seek ways to ensure that students can make that choice.


Maddie Parker

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