Voices

 

Lara, Liz, Mary

John, Mike

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What have you liked about your experiences in school?

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What have you disliked about your experiences in school?

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What kind of school do you think parents (teacher/family) want for students (you)?

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What kind of schools do you think students (teachers) want for themselves (you)?

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If you could design a perfect school, what would it be like?

Samuel F. B. Morse High School and Mabel O'Farrell Community School are located in the San Diego community of Encanto.

What have you liked about your experiences in school?

Across groups (faculty/staff members, parent/community members, and students) one fact becomes glaringly obvious: experiences that are liked in school are defined in terms of personal relationships with others. For example, in the group of students, six out of the seven interviewed reported that meeting new people (including teachers) and sharing experiences with them, or with friends they all ready had, was very important; in fact, personal relationships were consistently spoken of first among these students. Similarly, in the parent/community member group, personal relationships with others were said to have been the most substantial factor in terms of experiences liked in school: this point was unanimous among all six of them (there is no data for the seventh member). While the theme of personal relationships doesn't come out as strong among the faculty/staff group, it is still undeniably present: this group often begins its remarks or has its remarks center around the joy of learning, but relationships too are discussed as being important.

It is with this, though, the joy of learning, that groups tend to diverge in terms of experiences liked in school. While a majority (5 out of 7) of the faculty/staff group members felt the joy of learning was an experience most enjoyed in school, this mood does not come across as strongly in the other two groups. Students (4 out of 7) do report that learning is important; however, it seems as if this is peripheral to personal relationships since students do not articulate this idea as clearly as teachers. And, interestingly, except one, none of the parent/community group members makes any mention of learning as being an enjoyable experience at all!

Another theme that appears to connect these three groups is that of events enjoyed in school, whether they be field trips, dances or what have you. However, the connection is as skewed as that of the "joy of learning" since not all groups give equal weight to the importance of events enjoyed in school--students finding events most important, followed by parent/community members, then faculty/staff.

There are some unrelated items which don't tend to lend themselves to larger themes like those heretofore discussed. For example, one student states that food was one of the most enjoyable experiences enjoyed in school, while another enjoyed having a free dress code. One parent (as well as one teacher) mentions having enjoyed playing sports, while a community member says having leisure time was satisfying. Lastly, a few teachers (as well as one parent) mention being challenged as an enjoyable aspect of school, while one teacher relates experiences in clubs, such as ASB, as gratifying.

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What have you disliked about your experience(s) in school?

The responses to this question are as varied as the respondents. The most common response to the question had to do with the teacher in a negative sense -- they were: boring, unfocused, unfair, strict, refused to listen, lectured, or not dedicated. This theme of less than perfect teachers was evident with each of the respondent categories. The students surveyed also talked about teachers that were not fun, cafeteria food, the pressures of deadlines for projects, lack of money, uniforms, mile runs, oral projects, presentations, and early school start times. The parents and community members disliked uniforms, the lack of feeling safe in school, bullies, cafeteria food, unfairness of school , teasing, taunting, fights, cliques, and report cards. Most teachers that responded to the question as students, felt that school was boring for them or that they had teachers that did not listen. Other dislikes, as students included stereotyping (geek) due to good grades and oral presentations. The teachers that responded with their dislikes as a teacher mentioned: abusive parents, paperwork, administrative functions, "dumbing down" of the curriculum, neglecting the "average" learner, and less than dedicated teachers.

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What kind of school do you think parents (teacher/family) want for students (you)?

The main theme, or trend, running through the responses to this question is the desire for a safe and clean learning environment. The student responses speak of wanting a secure learning environment where the teachers are inspiring and helpful. Parents and community members also express the wish to have not only safe and clean schools for the children, but also smaller classrooms, after school events, diversity in curriculum, tutoring, parent volunteers, and committed teachers. Because most teachers are also parents, we feel that through their responses they are able to be the most specific and challenging in answering what parents may want for their children. Again the theme of a safe and clean environment is primary, yet several other areas are also addressed. Teachers feel that parents want their children to be successful students who are accountable, responsible, and community minded. In addition, teachers think that schools should: offer a challenging environment; produce students with a good work ethic and who are self-disciplined; have no ceiling for children of color; produce citizens who have many career options and will not need expensive remedial training in today's rapidly changing job market.

All in all, there is not much diversity in the responses to this question, only a varying degree of specificity expressed by each group.

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What kind of schools do you think students (teachers) want for themselves (you)?

The three groups of respondents had many similar thoughts in mind in regard to this question. All students said they wanted safe schools and smaller class sizes while teachers' responses seemed to vary a little. A few students stated their interest in receiving a good education so that they would be able to get a good job when the time came. Some teachers emphasized safety and smaller class sizes, while others mentioned the demand for high levels of technology to be used in the classroom. Middle school teachers said it was important for the students to be liked and have fun, whereas high school teachers said the students desired a higher level of demand from them. The high school students desired more of a challenge.

Parents' main concerns were centered around the need for teachers to be role models to their students as well as possess the ability to bring vitality and enthusiasm to the classroom. One particular parent stressed the importance of the teachers necessity to be prepared for their classes. This parent's point was that if the teachers lessons were well prepared the students would be more interested in participating in the classroom. Parents all agreed that that relevance was what all students wanted to experience in the classroom. Also parents thought that if they had a personal relationship with the teachers this would make the environment more conducive to learning.

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If you could design a perfect school, what would it be like?

Many of the teachers, students, and parents/community members jumped at the opportunity to design their perfect school. There were a few minor differences between student and adult responses, however the portrayals of the "perfect" schools all have common elements. A safe learning environment, free of gangs, violence, and bars on windows, seemed to come first and foremost. Teachers who care about their students and offer challenging curriculum were also stated as important aspects of a school.The students, teachers and parents at O'Farrell want classes the students can relate to their daily lives. On the other hand, the interviewees from Morse stated a need for more classes that prepare students for life after High School, whether it be college or the work force. Everyone interviewed realized the need for a smaller teacher to student ratio, computers in all classrooms, and good large libraries. An aesthetically pleasing school was noted as a necessary part of a "perfect" school. One where the students, teachers, parents, and community members would feel welcome and proud of the school's exterior appearance including paint scheme and landscaping. Plenty of water faucets and bathrooms would be built in these schools, and every classroom would have air conditioning. All of the above elements make for a great learning environment during school hours, but many interviewees believed that after school extra-curricular activities, such as clubs, band, art classes, or sports are a major contributor to an increase in students' self-esteem, thus spilling over into the classroom.

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