Out of the mouths of junior/intermediate students

I asked my grade 6/7/8 English class a question this past Friday:  What skills/attitudes do you think makes an effective principal or vice-principal?  First we discussed what effective means, then they worked in partners to discuss, record and represent all the qualities they felt made a “good”  (I say effective, they say “good”) principal or vice-principal.

Their answers, which we shared in a circle (“What, like in kindergarten????”) were quite telling.  First on almost every list was discipline.  That’s it.  Just the one word.  Discipline.  My favourite word…NOT!  Okay.  I can see why they would have that perception.  I must have made a face because they were quick to expand and add, “It’s not like we think you yell or anything.  But you have to be able to help kids with their problems without embarrassing them. And you do that a lot.”  Phew!

Other skills/attitudes they listed:

  • creative
  • not biased
  • patience and tolerance
  • focused on students
  • loves coming to work
  • involved
  • “in the loop” – when asked to elaborate they wanted someone up-to-date in the field, specifically in terms of technology and social media
  • healthy and balanced
  • remembers what it’s like to be a teacher (I would go even further and add what it was like to be a student as well)
  • giving of their time
  • reasonable
  • good education and lots of knowledge
  • be like Mrs. Paynter (these two girls were looking for a laugh, or bonus points or something :))

I’ve been contemplating their lists all weekend.  As part of their discussion, I asked where they got the basis for their lists, and they all said, “From watching you and talking with you.”  It’s powerful to hear that from the students.  They’re watching, forming opinions and ideals about what kind of teacher and administrator I am. What an honour to have them share that with me.

Now, I didn’t set off to have my ego stroked with this activity.  This is leading to the next stage where I am going to ask the same question, but this time within the context of themselves as learners preparing to transition on to the next grade (June is coming faster than we think!). The grade 6s are preparing for the intermediate grades, and all the changes that comes with it; the grade 7s will be inheriting the title of “oldest in the school” and the responsibility and perceptions that often come with that; and the grade 8s will be making one of the most significant transitions of their school career – high school.  So what skills and attitudes do they think they’ll need to be successful?

Taken from Shannon Smith, students will then graphically represent what their brains will look like on grade 7, 8, or 9.  When we’re done, I’ll post the results and hopefully generate a discussion.

I’m excited to see what they come up with!

4 thoughts on “Out of the mouths of junior/intermediate students

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Out of the mouths of junior/intermediate students « ErHead -- Topsy.com

  2. Hey Erin,

    Seems to be a nice trend as of late to actually get some real feedback from our students (at least out in the Twittersphere). I have been putting together and teaching (at the same time! don’t tell a backwards planning guru) a media literacy unit that I am hoping will have a real constructivist focus…anyway, I have started to give the kids exit slips with 3 questions…how engaging was that?…was the point of the activity clear? how can I make it better?….I think the risk of finding out you might be a bore is easily balanced against the ease of developing a next step with student input….

    Thanks again, Erin! Another great post.

  3. Great post, Erin. I too typically cringe at the word “discipline” because it has a connotative meaning of “punishment”. But I love the meaning your students gave. Articulate and true!


  4. Pingback: Out of the mouths of junior/intermediate students « Educational Discourse

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