CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.
Student Voices Blog Series: Student-Teacher Relationships in Revere
At the end of the 18-19 school year, I had the opportunity to sit down with two rising Revere High School freshman and one rising 8th grade Revere student to have casual conversation about school culture including discussions about advisory, student-teacher relationships, and feeling valued at school. Samuel and Ana, rising 9th-grade students, and Annabella, a rising 8th-grade student, all shared their thoughtful responses, which moved me in the moment, and even more looking back on them now. Be sure to check out their unfiltered thoughts below!
What do you like about going to school at Garfield?
Ana: In my personal opinion what I like most about just coming here is not only student support but staff support really. There's always someone that is there when you need them. And I feel like that's something that is very good in a school environment. You just have someone you can rely on and look up to if you need anything.
Samuel: I think its teachers pushing us to learn and to improve on skills we already know. And staff is really nice. Teachers are compassionate and fun to learn from.
Annabella: I would say the same thing about the teachers. A lot of them are really nice and they’ll help you with whatever you need. If you don't understand something, they’ll help you through it. And I think there are a lot of people that come here because it's a middle school and I like that we get to know a lot of kids and even in different grades because especially next year doing things after school we'll get to know more kids from other grades.
Author's Note: A new end-of-day “Experiential Learning” block has been approved for the school schedule beginning SY 19-20
You all have been part of an advisory this year. What has that experience been like for you?
Samuel: My opinion is that it’s worth my time, and sometimes it’s not. I think it’s great to be able to socialize with other people and to develop our social skills, but I think having advisory at the end of the day makes people not take it seriously.
Author's Note: In Spring 2019, Garfield faculty voted nearly unanimously to move advisory to the beginning and middle of the day in recognition of student and faculty feedback indicating that advisory felt more like a “holding spot” before dismissal when it was at the end of the day.
Ana: I agree. At the end of the day, we’re all tired and we don’t really want to do anything more, so we’re like, ‘Oh my, I just want time to pass.’ But there are moments that are really enjoyable because we’re, ya know, developing social skills and talking to people who may not be in our classes or who we don’t see as often. So in those moments, we’re in space together, becoming friends, and I think that’s something very important.
What would make advisory more meaningful for you in the future?
Ana: I think something that would make it better would be using advisory time to do more activities as a whole group . . . not only would it help develop more social skills, but it would mean everyone was included and everyone had people to talk to and engage with.
Samuel: I think what advisory needs is more freedom.
How do you think that advisory, being part of an advisory, could help you be prepared for, and successful in, high school?
Samuel: I mean we have the same advisory for four years or so, here. So I think [Principal Pechinsky] is preparing us to know people that we are in advisory with because we're going to be asked to contribute to something with them in the future, after four years together. But, preparing us for high school, I think it’s the development of social skills that matters because we’ll meet new people and have to work with new people in high school.
Ana: I think that advisory is teaching us to lean on our peers. It’s like, when I need help, I can go to so-and-so because I already know her from advisory and I know that I can count on them if I need them or if I need extra help.
Annabella: I see advisory as less about preparing us for high school and more about later in life when you have to be in the workplace with other people that you see every day. You just have to learn to get along and develop those social skills.
Within and beyond advisory, why is it important to you to have positive relationships with your teachers?
Annabella: Well I think it helps us as students because then we can learn to rely on our teachers more, and then we can trust them for things that maybe we normally wouldn't do right away with our teachers, but we can talk to them and count on them to help you through things that might not be, like, what you normally expect students to go to teachers for.
Ana: Personally I think it's amazing to have a positive relationship with your teachers because it gives you someone who you trust in school. You know, sometimes things may not be going best at home and you need someone to talk to: a teacher could be that person. You know, if you feel like they're very trustworthy, you could truly open up to them. That's amazing to me. Also, another thing is that sometimes I feel like I personally have been there where I'm too timid to ask a teacher a question because I don't know the teacher too well, and I feel like they're going to yell at me or say, ‘you should know that by now.’ Here, I feel like when you have a positive relationship with a teacher, you know you can go and ask them whatever you need because they’re willing to help. It's just something that every student should have because it just makes you want to ask more and make sure that you're truly learning, which is really important to me.
What are some recommendations of things teachers can do to form positive relationships with students? What would it look like in an advisory or in the classroom?
Annabella: I think they just like talk to us a lot and I know a lot of my teachers, and that most of the teachers we get along with will do more group activities and talk to the class a lot more. They’ll be involved in things and just talk about things. Especially the E.L.A. teachers will talk about the class and books, but we’ll also get to talk about our lives and about how our lives connect to what we’re learning. I think that just helps everybody open up to the teacher and build a good relationship with them.
Ana: I feel like charisma and enthusiasm is a big thing. I feel like teachers who, you know, are more open with their students and they are able to joke around with them and, you know, but still you can know can keep that, like, ‘I’m the teacher, you’re the student’ dynamic together. I feel like, you know, that's nice because it's like ‘oh well, you're funny and you know you're making you laugh’ and they’re also teaching us something and it's just a nice thing that teachers do. Also, when teachers are consistent with something or they try to, say, spice up what we're learning by either including different articles from other things or, you know, just adding onto something that may seem boring.
Samuel: [Ana] said something about charisma, and I think that how teachers talk to students matters. You know, in some situations, teachers set up learning so it’s like the teachers are learning from the students which I think really helps teachers to form that bond with students. It’s not like, ‘sit down and learn,’ but more like ‘let’s learn together.’
What makes you feel valued at Garfield? What lets you know you matter to the school community?
Ana: For me, it's recognition. I feel like at this school you get recognized a lot for your good work and your good behavior. Personally, I'm part of the [school club], and just being part of that group, it's something so special to me because it's like, ‘wow they see potential in me.’ I mean they see me putting that work in and you know they see me being consistent with my work and they're valuing that, which makes me feel accomplished and makes me feel like this school sees something in me that many, like, maybe others don't see or that maybe I myself don't see. If you do something good they'll make sure you know that, and I feel like that's something so beautiful because it builds your self-esteem up as a student. And at my old school I didn’t have that a lot, but when I first came here like automatically my teachers were like, ‘oh wow, you're very good at this,’ or, ‘you're very good at that, so maybe we should move you up to higher classes.’ I feel like just having that support from your teachers and being recognized is just something so nice.
Annabella: I agree with Ana, and it's also like the support from teachers and peers because they help you and even if you don’t believe in yourself as much as they might, they’ll help you to see that you’re good, and you fit in, and that you’re wanted here. For example, I was in drama club last year and the teachers, Ms. Newman and Mr. Flannery who run drama club, are really nice and they helped everybody out. We worked together to make the play and do all the things together so that we would have a good time doing it and have a good outcome. They really helped us all work together support each other throughout the whole thing and even helped each other identify what we were good at and what we needed help with.
Well, I know you’re off to lunch, so one final “easy” question: What’s something fun you’re looking forward to about summer?
Ana: For me it's traveling. Hopefully I'll get to travel this year. I think I might go to Miami. So that's gonna be fun. I’m used to going back to Guatemala because that's where my family's from. I feel like traveling is something that I'm looking forward to, and just being able to spend time with my family and de-stress from school is gonna be something amazing to help me prepare for high school!
Samuel: This summer is going to be about a lot of practice. I’m trying to get onto the [high school] football team next year. I also want to spend a lot of time with family, because life is short, and prepare for high school!
Annabella: I'm doing a lot of things over the summer, but I think the things I'm looking forward to most are like spending time traveling with my family because we do that every year; we go to visit family in other countries. And then I'm also looking forward to going to a sailing campus here which is fun because, like, other people from school are going so I'll be able to see my friends over the summer and to be able to talk to them without talking about school!