Earlier this week while in East Harlem, New York, I stopped into a lunch spot around the time the kids were getting out of school. Four young women sat down near me to have a bite, too.
On my way out, I stopped by their table and introduced myself. Then I asked them if they liked their school, which, gathering from the emblems on their sweaters, is the Young Women’s Leadership Academy. They said they are all in tenth grade. I asked them, “if you could tell the people who run schools what needs to happen for school to be a better experience for you, what would you say?” Here is what they answered:
1. We want for teachers to not have “attitude.” Not every teacher has attitude everyday, but some the girls say, have a lot. They would like to have teachers who are more consistently pleasant.
2. We want to take more trips to see colleges.
3. We want disruptive classmates to be less disruptive. “It isn’t fair to the rest of us.” If the disruptive ones won’t stop on their own, these girls want adults to manage the situation.
and last, or 4. “We want to be able to go outside for lunch.” If you prove you are a good and responsible student, there is no reason you shouldn’t be allowed out for lunch, these young ladies said.
As a social worker and someone who both works with young people and remember being in tenth grade, I can only say I agree with these four young ladies. Of course they should be able to go out for lunch at their age. Staying cooped up is not good for their attention. No wonder kids lose their focus and energy in the afternoon, when they haven’t had a change of scenery all day, or been able to catch a ray of sun. All the research shows that getting outdoors reduces stress and lifts depression. Maybe it would decrease acting out during the school day, and improve the mood of each student. In fact, doing number 4 would at least partly solve problem number 3, disruptiveness, since those students would be in a better mood from getting outside. Which might make teachers so happpy, that they wouldn’t “have attitudes.”
We often hear that kids make unreasonable demands. Yet none of what these four students are asking for seem anything but sensible. They sounds like ideas worth trying out.