Posted: June 12, 2017

Getting the chance to talk with seniors on the eve of their graduation is a truly JOYful and HOPEful experience. You may recall that way back in August at our back to school welcome, I shared about interviewing seniors.  The experience was so amazing I wanted to interview each of our seniors and I wanted more staff to be able to participate.  Since ultimately our responsibility is to produce a graduating class of seniors each year, I wanted to ask seniors what helped them and what was challenging about their journey to graduation.  We wanted students to know how much we appreciated them, were proud of them, and valued their thoughts.  About 40 staff members formed interview teams and met with seniors in small groups of 1 to 6 students.  We used an interview protocol to focus the interviews and provide consistency.

I asked the interview teams what they learned through the process.  A few of their observations are below.
·         Our students are insightful, reflective, driven and amazing. So glad to have been a part of this, thank you!
·         The future looks bright! It caused us to reflect on our own practices and the impact that we have students.
·         Relationships are key; student yearn to feel heard and respected. A sense of community is established for students in programs, clubs, sports, etc.
·         Relationships – Relationships – Relationships!
·         We have amazing kids that are ready and able to make a difference. They were very articulate and polished. Teachers are making a positive impact on students. Students know teachers care about them. Students remember very specific interactions with adults that left a positive or negative impression on them, clear back to Kindergarten.

In reflecting on the feedback we received from about 500 students, some common themes emerged.  I added a student quote that demonstrated the theme.  Of course, it’s impossible to capture the depth of the experiences in this kind of summary.  Each student’s experience was unique and important, and lessons can be learned from the themes about how we engage with students in the future.

·         Students greatly appreciate staff that make it clear they care about them.  “Having teachers that I consider closer to me than family has meant a lot to me. I needed them.”
·         Students remember learning activities and events that uniquely engaged them.  “There were a lot of times I would’ve been willing to give up my lunch to keep going on the conversation in class because it was real. We were talking about real stuff that challenged me.”
·         Students appreciate learning that is connected.   “You don’t learn things to remember them, we learn things to develop a way of thinking. Understanding that made learning better for me.”
·         Students feel a lot of pressure in trying to “successfully” navigate school and life. “I spent a lot of time worrying about things that seemed really important.  It was really hard to keep up with everything.  Everyone made me feel like everything was so important, but looking back now it really wasn’t.”
·         Students don’t want assumptions made about them.  They want to be known.  “Don’t assume I’m not trying.  You may not really know what I’m going through.”
·         Students appreciate their education.  “I appreciate how good we have it in Camas: educationally and in terms of athletics; but also in the arts: band, choir, drama.”  “There’s a sense of community here in Camas.  I know it’s not perfect, but I think that it is pretty special growing up here.”