Hannah, High School Student, CA
"I think that schools need to really focus on less of a grade/testing based system. I think what’s really important to get out of school is a love for learning. I honestly don’t think that school teaches you that and I think that it just teaches you a system where everyone participates to get a good grade, to get into a good college, and get to where ever they want to go in life without actually caring about the work they are doing."
Hannah is a student at Palo Alto High School (Paly). She was interviewed by a peer and one of our student Catalysts--Julie--for the RE-ENVISIONED collective visioning project at Paly in Spring 2017. Check out other #SchoolSpotlight interviews for Paly by following #PeopleofPaly.
Tell me about yourself. How would your friends and family describe you?
I’m hard-working, I’m caring, I’m compassionate and empathetic, and I would say my friendships are really meaningful. My family would describe the same way I think.
When do you feel most alive at school?
Probably when we have discussions in social justice and in this class [sociology], just hearing everyone’s insights and their ideas--I learn so much during that time, just talking and listening and discussing things that push my thinking.
Imagine that you’re all grown up. What are three central things that would make it a good life?
One, I would hope to be in a really good relationship with someone. Thirty - I feel like, maybe not married yet, but that’s important to me, to find a partner who’s loving and caring and someone I want to be with for the rest of my life. That’s really important to me.
Another thing is that I hope to have some sort of job that I love. Something that makes me want to go to work every day, be with my coworkers. I have no idea what that will be now, but I hope that’s something I will be able to find.
And then the third thing is just having really good friends. I know from high school how important friendships are and I’m so lucky to have had such a close, tight-knit group of friends and just hoping that I still have those friends or friendships like the ones I have now, that’s really important to me.
How do you imagine your parents would answer?
I think it would be pretty similar to what I have to say. Most all my values come from [them] and I think there’s a lot of parallels between what we believe makes a successful life.
What would you like school to do ideally to help you get to that good life?
I think the job of education is to not only give kids knowledge, but more teach them skills and push them to try their best. To not procrastinate and try their best and be able to work with others.
"Because when you go into the real world you’re going to need to have strong communication skills, you’re going to need to know how to meet deadlines and how to work with others and how to not only focus on yourself and the grade, but more than that - give them social skills and skills that will take them far."
Rather than just asking: “Oh you need to know this, and memorize these three things that you’re gonna forget next week for the test.”
Do you think school will do that for you?
I think it will. In certain circumstances. I think like in social justice, there’s been a lot of times working with people--it's been difficult--and I think there's been many instances where I’ve been pushed to come out of my comfort zone. But I do also think that there are flaws. For example, for chemistry, I’ll spend so much time on it and work so hard and just not see results. And yes, that’s something I’ve learned from, but also like I don’t know if it's necessarily good to be pushed so hard in a subject you don’t see yourself in...I don’t know.
Does your school play that role for all students in your school?
I think every student has different experiences, I know that for me leadership is really important. A lot of students choose to just step back and let other kids take charge and don’t care either. They want to just get through school to get through school and don’t put in their full effort and potential and I think that gives them a very different experience.
What do you think the most important thing that you are learning in school?
Like I was saying before, I think just how to have discussions, how to work and collaborate with other people, how to meet deadlines. I think those things are really going to stick with me. The things that we are learning in sociology are also really important to me because we are able to talk about society and why people do things and act in certain ways. In my opinion, sociology in general is important for everyone to understand because it gives you a new outlook on life.
Who’s been your favorite teacher until now and why?
That’s a hard one; I have had many.
"Mr. Bolanos is definitely one of them just because he knows how to bring the classroom alive."
The projects we do, the way he interacts with students, and how he doesn’t always just lecture at the front of the classroom, we have discussions and things that are much more engaging. I remember freshman year he dressed up and taught us history by showing us what it was actually like. Things like that get the attention of all types of students, and people want to come to his class and want to listen to him talk just because he knows how to appeal to everyone.
When you think about a society that you want to live in, what would make it ideal?
One thing that I’m sure will change with time is technology. I already see it now with us, that we are so consumed with technology, but I think ideally being able to understand that technology isn’t everything and that personal relationships and experiences are so important. Having that value ingrained in the future is something that I hope for- but I am unsure if it will and that’s kind of scary. Ideally technology wouldn’t take up our entire lives and people would still value personal interactions and I just hope that something that does happen and that those experiences still exist.
Given that answer what role do you think our schools should play in creating that ideal society?
I think that schools need to really focus on less of a grade/testing based system. I think what’s really important to get out of school is a love for learning. I honestly don’t think that school teaches you that and I think that it just teaches you a system where everyone participates to get a good grade, to get into a good college, and get to where ever they want to go in life without actually caring about the work they are doing.
"I think [school] needs to change students mindsets somehow to making kids want to show up to learn, to interact with other people, to be involved in discussions, to want to be involved in discussions! To want to listen to their teachers and talk to their classmates, and that's something that for a lot of kids doesn’t exist and somehow I think our education system needs to move to that."
It’s probably going to be a very difficult process because this is the way our system has been for forever. And I think we are moving in this direction by having more project based learning styles. Personally, I am not the best test taker and don’t perform as well on tests. They are just not always a good representation of my knowledge and just to figure out how to appeal to all types of students. To students who are good test takers, but also to students who aren’t. To appeal to all types of kids with different learning abilities is something that isn’t happening and show be addressed and changed in the future.
I just think that our education system is very flawed and there are a lot of places where it can improve. And I think that the biggest overall thing is that we need to change what motivates kids. Right now, it’s only numbers and grades - stepping away from that and somehow getting students to do things and making kids love learning is something that needs to happen and needs to change.