There is something powerful about listening to kids talk about their experience in our schools. It’s powerful. Our students and families are our customers. They come to us everyday hoping to receive our best, and we want to give that to them. As Todd Whitaker says, “The best part about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest part about being a teacher is that it matters everyday.”

Last night, I moderated an #HCESCedchat where we talked about the school experience. Specifically, we talked about the system of school. Because a bad system will beat a good person every time. In fact, Dr. Deming would say that 94% of failures are due to the system and only 6% are due to the worker.

We invited students, parents, the general public to this Twitter chat. No fancy titles required. Merely care. Show up with your voice. And holy smokes, did they ever.

Our kids had a lot to say. And they said it best. So, here are some highlights of high school student responses from last night’s chat:

When asked what about the current system of high school concerns you, and why?

High schools don’t give students time to breathe. Schools pile on work, not just in class, but at home too, while also encouraging kids to participate in extracurricular activities. There is no time to step back and give your brain a break.

It concerns me how few students are worried more about how much they are learning and instead are focused on grades, GPA, etc. Why aren’t students passionate about actually learning and how can educators work to fix this and engage students?

When asked how success should be measured in high school:

This is a hard question. As a student who does a lot of things outside the classroom, my grade card does not reflect me. We need personalized learning! Let the student pick the track. No school/class/student is the same, they should not be graded the same!

I hate tests!! They make me feel low and not good enough and everyone compares themselves to each other.

When asked if the current system of high school no longer existed, and they could build a new system, how it would look:

Learn without boundaries. There are so many ways students can learn, but our system limits this. Projects and cooperation build lifelong skills, helping children in the long run. Student centered learning builds intrinsic motivation.

Our students have so much to say. Are we listening? I was alarmed to read that kids don’t have time to “breathe.” Breathing is essential to staying alive! This should deeply concern us. I was concerned to hear that tests have made a child feel “low” and “less than.” We are in the human development business! Our kids should be reminded of their limitless potential. They should feel strong, and brave, and significant as a result of their time in our “system.” Many high school students know how they learn best – and it’s often not bell-to-bell and in subject silos. It’s not in an ecosystem where they have to worry about all of our rules about using the bathroom and getting a drink of water, which hall pass to use, how many hall passes they have left. Oh, and do they have all of their supplies because their locker is on the other side of the school, but they only have 4 minutes between classes, and if they forget their pencil, they will have to trade in a shoe and that’s embarrassing. And if they forget their homework in their locker then that’s getting turned in an hour late, so they will get points taken off. Now I’m struggling to breathe…

And we certainly don’t need to make any human feel like they have to be elite or perfect at everything. Because they don’t. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t elite at everything. Students can still get into college and/or achieve their dreams without taking the highest level of level of levels of whatever course and without getting A’s in all of it.

Enough. Just stop.

So where does this leave us? We can start by listening to our kids who are telling us the things we can STOP.