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A Day in the Life of a Student

You wake up in the morning earlier than you want to. You try and struggle to stay asleep but your parents come into your private space and nag you constantly until you get up. Wearily you get up and get dressed in your school approved clothing.  If you still have time you munch down some food and then you grab your extremely heavy backpack and head to school.

On the way to school you are teased by some of your "friends." You'd mention it to an adult but nothing ever happens so why bother. When you arrive at school you place some of your belongings in a tiny cubicle that doesn't quite hold everything and smells faintly of that lunch you managed to pack last week but forgot in your locker over the weekend. Jostling through the over crowded and identical hallways you make your way to your first class of the day.

Fortunately you had time last night to finish some of that boring homework you assigned so you get it out of your book and prepare to share it with your teacher. Unfortunately you've forgotten that this teacher never actually looks at the homework and gives you any feedback about it so back into your book it goes. You are actually enjoying your class discussion when all of a sudden a loud bell goes off and you have to rush to your next class. It's too bad because you feel like you were finally understanding some of the reasons why World War II happened.

In your next class you hardly have any time to think because you are spending your whole class frantically trying to keep up with the enormous amount of inane stuff you are being asked to write down. Right at the end of the class the teacher finally pauses to ask if anyone has questions but before you can ask why Hamlet did all those mean things you have to wait through three people before you ask questions about when the homework is due. Bell goes again and off you trudge to your next class.

In your math class your teacher patiently goes through solving quadratic equations but never explains WHY you want to solve quadratic equations. She's good at explaining this stuff but a bit out of touch with your needs. You try and do her homework because you know math is important but it seems like the stuff that is on the test is different than the homework. You'd love to be able to ask questions but you feel too intimidated and stupid to do so.

Next you get to have lunch. You head down to the cafeteria where they are serving slightly warm pizza AGAIN. You sit around on a table and chat with your friends for a while. You'd like to go and play a game of football outside but there's no one to supervise you so you are stuck inside. It's even a beautiful sunny day outside so you are pretty frustrated.

After lunch you have your final class of the day which is usually your favourite but today you have a sub. He hands out a bunch of worksheets and reads instructions off of a piece of paper in his hands. He apologizes but says he knows nothing about computers and so they have to remain off. He's not, in his own words, "licensed to teach about computers."

At the end of the class you pick up your stuff and go home. You'd like to hang out with your friends but there's really no place for you to do that now that the school instituted their new "go home if you aren't supervised" policy. Instead you play a little bit of Farmville to relax and then take a look at your homework. Your parents come home late and ask what you did today and you say "nothing" because really that's the truth. You had to make your own food for dinner which unfortunately consists of an over cooked microwaveable dinner because that's all you've ever had the time to learn how to make.

None of it seems very interesting but you manage to get through it while IMing with your friends, watching an old rerun of The Big Bang theory. When you are finally done you work on some of your own projects you've been thinking about but too tired you give up and go to sleep. You know the next day will be the same as today and you wonder why you bother to go to school.

About David

David is a Formative Assessment Specialist for Mathematics at New Visions for Public Schools in NYC. He has been teaching since 2002, and has worked in Brooklyn, London, Bangkok, and Vancouver before moving back to the United States. He has his Masters degree in Educational Technology from UBC, and is the co-author of a mathematics textbook. He has been published in ISTE's Leading and Learning, Educational Technology Solutions, The Software Developers Journal, The Bangkok Post and Edutopia. He blogs with the Cooperative Catalyst, and is the Assessment group facilitator for Edutopia. He has also helped organize the first Edcamp in Canada, and TEDxKIDS@BC.

Comments

This is true to too many schools. Our school starts at 7:53 so it's not too early for the students. What is funny is that they've told us if school starts later, they'll just stay up later.

Teasing and bullying is a big problem at many schools and schools need to address it. Students need to feel like something will be done and feel comfortable coming to an adult about. It should be punished and then those bullying should be educated on the proper way to behave. We try this when we can here, but students still don't come forward. It's a big issue.

Homework should be meaningful and an extension of class. Not useless. It should also be graded and feedback must be given. I don't assign homework every day and students often have time in class to work on assignments. That way they can ask me for help. I also do a lot of projects (I teach physics) and they can chose their project topic and do it on something they are interested in.

I also use blogs and web sites to continue great conversations out side of the classroom. We have block scheduling so I do get a lot of time with my students. I also make sure I explain the every day application of what we are learning. Physics is easy - I can relate it to cars, sports, the building we are in, cooking, etc. I'm lucky in that respect.

Lunch is a nightmare - overcrowded and not very nutritious. Our seniors do get to use the courtyard and eat outside on nice days. But, there is barely enough time to eat, let alone play.

After school is an issue. We have over a hundred clubs and sports, but not everyone is involved. They must have an adult with them if they are staying after school. That is for everyone's safety (we are in an urban school surrounded by violence). Many teachers have "study clubs" were kids can hang out after school and do what ever they want. It would be nice to set up a teen center in the area, and I know one group is working on it, but it's not started yet.

Parents should be more involved. Don't take "nothing" for an answer. Make sure your children know that they can come to you for anything. Make time for them.

I don't want my students to spend all night on homework. I want them to do things on their own that they are interested in. We may have the next Steve Jobs, Dean Kamen or Bill Gates in our school. But they'll never get there if they spend all their time on mindless, useless homework.

We need to change education. To do that, we need teachers, students, parents, politicians, community leaders, community groups, business, and the media all working together, not at cross purposes. We need research based decisions, not politics.

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