I find my students touching, and often cute. However, in thinking of them as “cute,” I don’t always see their wisdom.
Three 12th grade students approached me a few weeks ago. I call them my “movers and shakers.” They are active in student government and always looking to plan new activities.
“We want to have a ‘Glow in the Dark’ party,” said Stephanie.*
“Yeah! Kids are getting stressed out studying for Regents exams and this will be fun,” added Hassan.**
I did what I often do with kids: I told them I would think about it and get back to them.
I presented the idea to a few staff members in a way that got me an answer I preferred: “The kids want to have a dance, but it’s not really practical now, is it?”
“No it’s not,” replied just about everyone I asked. “We should wait until after the exams are over. Early February would be a lot better.”
We had had a Glow in the Dark dance the year before, and I figured we could just have it later.
I told the students to plan for February.
“Miss Nariman, we’ve really thought this through,” said Abbas. “We want to have glow-in-the-dark sticks at the dance, and if we have the dance in February, the sun sets later, so we’ll have to wait until it’s dark enough for the sticks to glow.”
“Yeah, and it’s going to be so awkward standing in the sunlight waiting for the ‘glow’ to start,” said Stephanie.
“OK . . . ” I had to admit I was impressed by their planning. “What about Regents exams? I don’t want kids to lose their focus.”
“We’re going to start the dance at 4:30, right after Regents tutoring ends,” replied Abbas. “Kids will go to tutoring and study while they’re waiting for the dance.”
This was well-thought out.
“OK,” I said. “Let me see what gym space is available.”
Stephanie clapped her hands and high-fived the other two.
Within a day, I had the gym space reserved and started recruited chaperones.
It was easy to partner with the students. They secured a DJ. They recruited a few teachers to help them organize. They made beautiful posters. They used money from tickets to buy glow sticks and decorations. They listened to feedback.
The dance was a great success and over 130 students showed up. The glow sticks looked magical and kids danced their hearts out. And the timing felt perfect.
I saw how much activities like a dance inspire kids.
I see my students’ greatness, yet it can be so easy for me to dismiss their ideas as “cute” or “impractical.” It can be so easy to give a polite “no,” and justify it.
It can be so easy not to listen. But I’m so glad I did.
*The names and identifying features of students have been changed.
**To graduate from high school in New York State, students need to pass Regents exams in English, math, history, and science. The Regents exams are given three times a year, in January, June, and August.