I Wonder What Would Happen …

I wonder what would happen if more students said,

  • No.” 
  • I can’t do this.
  • I’m bored.”
  • I want a change.”

I wonder what would happen if more students questioned approaches, challenged ideas, and suggested alternatives.

Please don’t get me wrong: I want students to love school. I want students to get excited about learning, and the thinking and problem solving that comes with this learning. I want students to experience the same passion and excitement that I experience teaching them. 

I don’t want problems, but it’s when issues arise, that I learn the most in an attempt to solve them. I don’t want students to struggle, but it’s when they do, that I learn the most in an attempt to help them work through these struggles. I don’t want students that are disengaged, but it’s when this happens, that I learn the most about how to engage them.

Maybe we all need students that challenge us. I’m not suggesting an upheaval of the classroom/school structure, but maybe it’s through a questioning/challenging student voice that we start stepping away from the Lite Brite pattern and trying something new. If more students went from “compliance” to “questioning,” what would we do? What impact would this have on our classrooms and our schools? Are we ready to listen to these student voices, and are we ready to change in response to them? 


18 thoughts on “I Wonder What Would Happen …

  1. Such a great point, Aviva. When we encourage students to be critical thinkers, to question to status quo and use their own voices to self advocate they can and will use them. Every learner needs critical friends to help them assess, reflect, plan and learn. Students should certainly be a source of those critical friends for educators to also keep learning.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kristi! Great point about the need for “critical friends”: I think both adult and student ones are beneficial (and I’ll definitely thank you for being one of mine).

      As Transforming Learning Everywhere continues to grow, I wonder what impact these student voices will have on classroom and school changes. We’re putting the technology into the hands of the students; now it’s time to hear what the students have to say.


      • I think student voice is extremely important. By giving students this opportunity to voice their opinions, we are allowing them to take ownership of their learning. I struggled at the beginning of the year to find a way to engage my students. They just weren’t buying in to what I was doing. I flat out asked them how they wanted to learn…what would be fun for them. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.

        At the same time, I’m surprised at how many Grade Eight students are not buying into Transforming Learning Everywhere. Many have voiced that they want to go back to textbooks, that they think this will better prepare them for highschool. I think the change in focus for my students need to be that they no longer see school, see their learning as a means to an end. They need realize learning is a lifelong practice that will never end. I’m not preparing them for highschool, I’m igniting their love of learning. I’m building their self-confidence. I’m ensuring that through life they have the skills to perservere and solve problems. Students that haven’t grown up with an iPad in their hand, or haven’t been accustomed to inquiry need to realize this shift in thinking.

        • I see what you are saying as I know how important these skills are for students moving forward. My only issue with this approach is- are we allowed to ignore the voices that aren’t saying what we want to hear?
          Maybe some students will learn better from a textbook as that is their comfort zone. Perhaps something they learn/read will have peak their interest and cause them to research and learn more about a concept in depth. I find it interesting that many of the schools pushing student voice are pushing for the majority. Are we teaching some students that their voice doesn’t matter?

          • Thanks for the comment, Heather! I see what you’re saying here, but I truly believe that a “one size fits all” approach is not beneficial, be it through textbooks, inquiry, or somewhere in between. We really need to be looking and listening to the needs of our students, and trying to find methods that work for each one of them. While I have more of an inquiry learning environment, I have a lot of scaffolding for some students that need it. And a textbook is a resource, and can sometimes be beneficial in some way, but is it beneficial for all? Does it promote deeper thinking? How might it be used as a starting point?

            I also wonder if the students that want these textbooks and worksheets want them because this is what they’re accustomed to. Does this make them better? While I definitely believe in the value of student voice, I think that we need to also question this voice and find out more about what they’re thinking and why they’re thinking it … regardless of what this voice might be saying. And for those quiet students that won’t speak up, maybe we need to create a Google Form, have a backchannel, or even encourage students to write us a note with their thoughts — as all voices need to be heard!

            Thanks for continuing this conversation!

        • Thanks for your comment, Frances! You make some wonderful points here. When I introduced inquiry to my Grade 5’s last year, they were skeptical. When I didn’t hand out a math textbook or even use math worksheets, they wondered why. Many initially expressed that they wanted to go back to this old way of doing things. When I asked them why though, this is when the great conversations happened. Students were often just so accustomed to textbooks and worksheets that they thought that this was the best practice. Like you, I needed to get them to see that learning is about more than just answering a question and getting the right answer. When students started to see how inquiring helps them think and truly better understand material, they actually had a big shift in thinking. They started to realize that even if they did go back to a textbook at some point, that they would be more than prepared to do so (as they really understood the content). And some students, even wrote a guest blog post on my professional blog about why they’d rather not go back to a textbook.

          In the end, I think that this change takes time, but the conversations that you’re having with your students are such important ones, and will help you better see and understand their thinking and vice versa. I wonder if the students that are starting Transforming Learning Everywhere in Grade 4 will have a different experience, as this shift will happen earlier. I also wonder if this shift needs to happen from the very beginning (K and up — as almost encouraged by the FDK document), so that the students realize that learning can happen outside of a “prepared program.”

          Thanks for giving me even more to think about!

          • I can see what you are saying and yes- we should push our student’s thinking. I think that the ideas of how to engage students who are more quiet are great ones. I know I had to reflect on it last year when we started a reward program and one of my girl students blogged about how we did it “for the boys”. The boys made up a huge majority of my class. Made me realize that majority (although democratic) doesn’t meet everyone’s needs

          • That’s a great point, Heather! I think that we need to find a way to hear all voices (and not just the louder ones that will speak up). We also need to be willing to listen to these voices: finding a way to meet multiple needs, and I think sometimes, work outside of our own comfort zone.

            Thanks for continuing to push my thinking on this topic!

    • A great point, Robin! It kind of makes me think of the knowledge building circle web that Frances tweeted out the other day. Now we’re building knowledge about how we learn and what we want to learn. Let the conversation begin!


  2. Aviva,
    We expect students to question concepts but at the same time, be compliant to some classroom procedures. If students are going to question, we as teachers need to be receptive to this questions and improve our own knowledge base in order to answer them correctly or direct them to a proper source where they can find their answers.

    • Great point, Sandhya! How do we feel comfortable with this though? I think that it’s so contrary to what we’re used to. I would love to hear any words of advice.


      • Sandhya,

        I think taking that leap and allowing students to question is a very scary first step. I think that not giving them all the answers is also difficult. From what I’ve seen so far, students seem to grow more confident as you allow them to take an active part in their knowledge building.

        In terms of being compliant to classroom procedures…I think if that shifts to following norms that allow for collaboration, then students will have a better understanding of why those procedures are in place.

        I want students to question, I want to help educate those who change the world. Without questioning, the status quo will always remain. As teachers, I think we also need to question our practice and explore the reasons behind the way we do things. Do we have these procedures in place because “that is how it’s always been?” Or do these procedures hold a real purpose? Regardless, we need to empower our students and give them confidence to use their voice.

        – Frances

        • I really like the point of considering why we do things either “because it has always been done that way” or for a real reason. We definitely need to listen when students question. They may have a completely valid point that causes us to rethink practices

          • I totally agree, Heather! Sometimes it’s hard to hear what students have to say, but as I’ve started listening more, I think that I’ve become a better teacher. I like that we can learn together.


        • Great points, Frances! Have you ever considered starting a professional blog? I think you have a lot of thoughts worth sharing, and I so appreciate how you’ve added to the conversation here.


        • Frances,
          As you said it is ‘scary’ to face questions from students. We as teachers should become competent to answer their concept based questions and we should allow them to question procedures. Some procedures are just followed and it may just take a student to question its existence.

          • Thanks Sandhya! If questioning makes us reevaluate why were doing something, that’s a good thing. Maybe this will lead to positive changes in the classroom.


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