Students' View of School

By Anna McTigue and Nancy Brigham

When you think about middle school or high school, what comes to mind? Regardless of whether the memory is pleasant or unpleasant, it stays with you. We’ve learned that success in school is not just about academics; it’s also about students connecting with one another and their teachers and creating social and emotional bonds to their schools and communities. Adults often downplay or even ignore this aspect of schooling. We ask children, “What did you do in school today?” We don’t ask, “What makes school special for you? What makes you feel connected to your school?” And, if we did, many students would find the question foreign to them because neither their teachers nor their families have ever asked before.

Yet we know that connectedness, sometimes called school engagement, is key to a student’s academic success. In his report, School Connectedness: Improving Students’ Lives, Johns Hopkins University professor Robert Blum makes the point that connectedness “improves educational motivation, classroom engagement, academic performance, school attendance and completion rates” while decreasing “absenteeism, fighting, bullying and vandalism.”

We also know that, when students reach the age to vote with their feet, huge numbers of them drop out, making it clear they can’t wait to disconnect from the system. Or, could it be that they never felt connected in the first place?

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