Students are an untapped wealth of information about the learning process, individual teachers and how each department functions as a whole. As second semester seniors, we have been reflecting on what’s been important and what’s influenced us at Harvard-Westlake.
Teachers play an immense role in the high school experience, guiding not only the course of our days, but also potentially the course of our careers.
We’re lucky enough to have teachers that seem constantly engaged, who transcend the monotony of the school day and invest in each student. However, there are classes that falter and things that can change. Every student has opinions of their teachers. We spend 45 minutes each day listening to them but we are never consulted for our judgments. We sometimes complain to our deans but there’s no system in place to deal with it.
We need to open the dialogue between faculty and students. Right now, the English and foreign language departments are under evaluation as part of a six-year cycle of review. This process consulsts a small number of students but mainly relies on outside guidance. As it stands, there is no regular formal feedback by students on the quality of our education. This could be a valuable tool. If the same issues arise year after year for students, that curriculum or teacher should be reevaluated and updated.
The school spends so much time trying to reach academic, athletic and artistic excellence, but we neglect to utilize the students who actually make it excellent.
There are many ways to get student input including end-of-the-year surveys or anonymous evaluations, but we think the best way to prompt change is through senior exit interviews with a member of the faculty. Westlake tried a similar method before the merger, and President Thomas Hudnut said he did interviews on a voluntary basis and found it helpful. Removed from the pressure of college admissions and AP exams, seniors will have the perspective to properly evaluate their academic experience. They can speak to their development within each department and how each teacher affected change in their lives.
The departments could gauge their strengths and where they could use enhancement and adjust for the future. The answer is hiding in plain sight. We can help and we want to be heard.