This week, my student Andy* came into his guitar lesson just like he always does, his quiet eyes halfway hidden behind shaggy hair. As I tuned his guitar, I asked the question I generally ask children when they come in: “How was your day?”
Andy shrugged. “Not so good. And my week wasn’t good either. All because school is lame, and I’ve had a ton of home-work, and I didn’t practice my guitar as much as I wanted to because of that.”
This surprised me. Andy has been my student for quite a long time, but he doesn’t say very much in his lessons, and rarely complains. “What happened at school?” I asked cautiously, hoping that he hadn’t been in trouble.
“Oh, we have to take a bunch of tests that don’t really test what we know, and I’ve only learned three things in my communication arts class this entire year, and they give these stupid worksheets in almost every class for home-work that are nothing but busy work, and I feel like school is just a waste of my time!” Andy blurted out.
I didn’t know what to say. For a moment, I focused on the guitar in my hands. Then I replied, “I’m sorry school has been tough. It’s too bad that home-work has been taking up your time. I’m sure you’ve still enjoyed your music lessons at school, though, and we get to play some guitar music here right now, so that’s a plus.”
“Yeah.” Andy took his guitar as I handed it back. Yet when I turned to his music book, he spoke again. “I just wish that school was different. It doesn’t need to be the way it is.”
Curiosity piqued, I said, “Oh? What should school be like?”
Andy paused, thought a moment, and said solemnly, “I’m not stupid. School treats me and all the other kids like we’re stupid, and like we can’t learn anything. They don’t teach us anything new, just review what we did last year all the time, because they don’t trust us to learn.”
Then he looked me in the eye and spoke firmly: “You know, kids like to learn. If the schools would give us real stuff to learn and teach us as if we were intelligent already, then maybe more kids would want to try harder in school.”
A million things I’d like to say flashed through my mind.
“Well, Andy, then someday maybe you can be a teacher and work on helping schools become the kind of place you would like to see for future children.”
Andy considered this a moment. He grinned, just a little. “Maybe.”
Then he began playing his music.
*The name of this student has been changed.