THE HUB - Feature Article

  • Learning lessons taught by students

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 3/22/2018

    As adults in general and educators in particular, the sense of obligation to teach our children is one that is not just ingrained, but practically innate. It is we who must mold and shape the next generation, and we who are largely charged with imparting wisdom and preparing our young people to launch the next phase of their lives.

    Every adult, however, has those moments when the teacher becomes the pupil. If we recognize those moments and are aware enough to stop and listen, our children can teach us some of life’s most valuable lessons.

    I see and hear that often in meetings with my Teen Advisory, a group of about 30 of the brightest young minds in our county who offer refreshingly honest assessments of and opinions about any number of issues related to our school system. I also see and hear it in the workings of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, a group of current and future student leaders who work to develop leadership skills and enact improvements that benefit all students in our school system.

    I also see and hear it, however, in the everyday individual stories at schools throughout our county.

    Our children, if we let them, can sometimes be our best teachers.

    That was borne out last week, when we charged students to work with their principals and design activities to honor victims of the tragic Florida school shooting and create safe and appropriate ways to express their passion about school safety. We neither endorsed nor encouraged students to leave buildings as part of a nationwide effort, but were clearly aware that some would choose to do so.

    To say that our entire county should be extremely proud of the way our children responded to this call would be a colossal understatement. We should, in fact, be inspired and moved not just by their actions, but by the maturity with which they carried them out. I know I am.

    Yes, students left buildings, as did others around the country. Those demonstrations were orderly, polite, and respectful, and they proudly honored those lost in one of the nation’s most horrific acts in recent memory.

    Inside our buildings, however, there were scores of examples of empowered students who chose to do so taking part in activities they helped bring about. The lessons they learned – and taught – went far beyond a textbook or online presentation. Just a few examples:

    - Students sat quietly in a high school gymnasium, reflecting on the February 14 tragedy and what they could individually do in response.
    - Students at a middle school wore maroon and gray, the colors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in honor of students they may never meet but with whom they share a common commitment and resolve.
    - Students at an elementary school stood in their cafeteria and consciously sought out students who may not have a lot of friends or who often each lunch alone, in the process striking up new friendships that could have untold benefits as they develop in the future.
    - Students in a high school auditorium recited the names of Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims and, in a display of incredible awareness to bring the
    conversation full circle, also verbalized the names of those killed at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999, before most of our current students were even born.

    There is no question whatsoever that for students – particularly teens – across the country, the Florida tragedy has awakened a sense of passion, calling, and commitment. We may well be watching the defining moment for a generation.

    It is all too easy to relegate our students to a place where they are on the receiving end of lessons. There are times, however – perhaps more than we ever realize – where those same students can impart the teachable moments and be the very leaders we are trying to create. Sometimes our children just need the opportunity to lead. Last week we gave it to them, and they did an awesome job.

    The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at

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