Liam, Student, MI
Liam is a 6th grader in Ann Arbor, MI and he enjoys baseball, basketball, computer programming, and math. He was interviewed by his older sister, Andie.
Tell me about a child you care about. What makes them unique? This could also be yourself because you are a child.
I will choose, Henry, my baby brother, and he is very unique because he’s so just small and really cute.
How old is he?
He is a little over a month old.
What unique personality traits and skills do you think he brings to the world so far?
He doesn’t really have a personality yet; he just does what he needs to do to survive. He’s very healthy, but there’s not that much more.
Now, imagine that child is now in their 30s – out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make it a ‘good’ or ‘successful’ life?
Well, I really hope that, although right now I don’t know what he wants to do when he grows up, he pursues what he wants to do and achieves the goal of getting a job and making a living off of doing that thing.
What would make his job a good job for him and make his situation successful?
I think the thing that would make it a successful situation is, 1, having a job that is something that he wants to do, and 2, earning enough money to support himself and, if he has kids or a wife, to support them and anyone else he needs to take care of.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
I think school should be able to teach him all the stuff he needs to know and help him have the abilities that he needs to carry out whatever job he has, and to know how to get through life at that point.
Do/will schools play the role that you think they should for “your” child? Why or why not?
I think right now schools probably do a pretty good job at teaching you everything you need to know for different careers and different jobs, but I think there are some things that could be changed just to help him get through school in a easier way.
What type of things could be changed?
There’s a lot of pressure to do well and get good grades, but I feel like the only thing there should be pressure for is making sure you’re learning new stuff instead of just looking at your grades.
Will schools play the role it should for all children? If not, why not?
There are a lot of schools around the country, and I think that each one varies in how it teaches and what it teaches and how good the teachers are, but I think that definitely not everybody is able to learn what they need to know, but a lot of people are.
Do you think people agree with you on each of those levels?
On level one, I would guess that there are a lot of people who would agree because that will help you a lot in life, if everyday you’re enjoying what you’re doing and also getting the money that you need. I think a lot of people would agree with that.
Do you think that some people wouldn’t agree?
Probably, because there are so many people and some different points of view and some different ideas, but right now I can’t think of anything else that anyone else would say.
What about level two?
I think that would probably be more controversial because probably a lot of people would say that school doesn’t teach you the stuff you need and that is probably true in a lot of situations, but I would think there would also be a lot of people who would agree with me because a lot of schools do a good job at teaching you what you need to know.
Can you imagine what people’s reasons would be for why schools don’t teach you what you need to know?
Sometimes if people have had a bad experience with a bad teacher that doesn’t teach them very much in their school experience, maybe they didn’t learn as much as they hoped to. Maybe judging from their experience, schools didn’t teach them the stuff they need to know.
If people say that schools didn’t teach them the stuff they need to know because they had bad teachers, isn’t that valid that schools didn’t teach them the stuff that they needed to know?
Yeah, I’m not saying that’s not a valid reason, I totally think that is 100% a valid reason and situations like that should be changed. It should be a big thing to make it so that everybody has a good school experience and learns the stuff they need to know.
Can you think of any ways to do that? It’s a pretty big issue.
I haven’t thought about it a ton. The only thing I can think of is having higher standards for being able to teach. Instead of just taking a ton of teachers in and not paying that much attention to how good they will actually teach, it would be better for people to be more careful about what teachers they hire.
Do you think people would agree with you that schools generally do teach all kids what they need to know?
I would guess that a lot of people would say that they weren’t taught what they need to know or they know people that weren’t taught what they need to know so they would disagree, saying that not all kids are taught what they need to know. Some people, maybe in a different school, would not know anyone who the teachers didn’t at least try to teach and give the resources they need to know that stuff.
What have been some of your most empowering educational experiences? This doesn’t have to be in school – it could be outside of school.
I’d have to think for a while to think for the biggest ones, but pretty recently I asked my mom if there were any rules she could tell me to help me get through a test, and she told me that she didn’t believe in rules and that kids should just understand how the mathematical ideas work instead of just memorizing rules. She said it’s better to know how it works and why it works.
What made that empowering?
I think it will help me more in the future, and it helped me for that test, to instead of just memorizing rules, really think about the math and think about how it works. I basically did what my mom said and didn’t just memorize rules.
In taking that idea and applying it to the real world, do you think that kind of approach to problem solving is helpful and should that be a bigger part of school? Would it be better to, instead of memorization, have more understanding?
I do think that would help a lot, and it would help people to learn more. If you just have all these random facts going around in your head it might be hard to keep them straight, but if you have this understanding of what works because of how it makes sense, it would be easier to learn more and keep it all in your head.
Tell me about a teacher who impacted your life.
My last teacher, for when I was in 3rd and 4th grade, was named Mr. Garcia. He did a lot of things, especially in math, that really helped me. The main thing that he did in math to help was emphasizing multiplication. He drilled it into our heads over and over again, and I’ve found that multiplication is a very important part of doing more complicated things in math, so it’s a very important base to have.