Students Should be Treated Like People Not Numbers

I just read a piece too good to cut into excerpts. It’s written by Sheila French and is about the way she has learnt to approach parent-teacher conferences. She discusses the need to put grades and data to a side and instead, concentrate on talking about the child.

Below is the entire article. It is absolutely worth reading:

In elementary school Parent-Teacher Conferences come and go every year. This year I tried something new with the parents of my third graders at De Laveaga Elementary School. Rather than discussing test scores, grades and assessments I told the families I would like to talk about their child as a PERSON.

There’s no doubt about it, instruction in the kindergarten through high school is data driven. Our students have ID numbers, are assessed at least three times a year, and all of their data is kept on line. Our students are ranked anywhere from far below basic, basic, proficient to advanced.

But how are they as people? 

Are they able to work well with others?

Do they have the skills to make friends and create lasting relationships that will be needed throughout life?

Or our these children little turning into little robots who have “apps” for everything from studying their times tables to practicing for the SAT’s? Do these children of today need to memorize anything when they can run to their laptop and “Google” something?

I say there’s way too much emphasis put on test scores and grades. Let us step back and take a closer look at what our goals are as educators and parents. I don’t think I stand alone when I say that we would like to educate and parent children who have work-ethics, life skills and are well-rounded.

If you go to talk to your child’s teacher, go prepared to talk about your WHOLE child.  Go with a list (just like you’d go to the doctor), ready to ask questions about your child’s social behavior inside the classroom as well as outside on the playground. 

Before your parent-teacher conference, I suggest that you take the time to sit down and talk to your children. Ask them about their favorite classes. Where do they struggle? Do they have friends? Who are they? What do they do at recess? Of course these questions are not limited to pre-conference discussions. They are good conversations to have with your children on an on-going basis.

The playground is just as important as the classroom.

Chances are, the teacher will be more than happy to share some insight about your child as a whole person, not just another test score. Parents, take this opportunity to learn about your child from someone who cares about your child’s social, emotional and education development. This will ensure that our students become GOOD people even in this crazy data-driven world.

Ms. French has echoed many of the points I have made on this blog (although she writes more eloquently). She is absolutely right to point out that the playground is as important as the classroom.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have.

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2 Responses to “Students Should be Treated Like People Not Numbers”

  1. Mike Feurstein Says:

    I had to sit through curriculum mapping and “number sessions” while helping to structure the media-based turnaround program in the city high school — and for an hour or so it seemed like we were talking about units of product, not students.

    Thankfully it wasn’t until we got into the classroom, and it was just the teachers and I–no administrators and no ‘experts’–that we finally started talking about individual students and why we thought they were struggling.

    In the suburban elementary school, I felt very lucky to be among even administrators who knew the children on personal levels, not just as a set data in a manila envelope. Even the experts that were brought in to assess medications or alternative placements: they knew these kids by their first names, by their behaviors and habits.

    But to get to the bottom of why “E.B.” was having problems with “C.N.” — I had lunch with them both in their classroom, in the understanding that anything we discussed was going to be shared with trusted teachers and parents. We explored their relationship and figured out why they were having issues. It felt good to go beyond the numbers, beyond the IEPs and the reports. Something everyone should be afforded. Thanks for sharing this article!

  2. John Tapscott Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Sheila French’s sentiments. The things that really count in education can’t be counted.

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