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Kids talk about school issues

Van Zyl sees meeting with student reps as opportunity

December 6, 2013
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, , Messenger News

Fort Dodge Senior High students had an open dialogue Friday with Doug Van Zyl, Fort Dodge Community School District superintendent.

"It was an opportunity for them to feel like an adult is listening to them, that they're given an opportunity to share the things they see," Van Zyl said. "They want to actively be involved in their learning experience."

The group of more than 15 students, representing all grades, interests and achievement levels, offered their insights on the school and their education.

"We talked about the things they see as areas of strength and pride in our schools and district," Van Zyl said. "We also talked about some areas that maybe they have some concerns, or had some ideas on how we can make some things better."

According to Van Zyl, the FDSH students feel like they're making positive strides in how they work and interact with each other.

"They really don't see issues with bullying, and if they do they see some other students now starting to step in and address that," Van Zyl said.

The students also spoke highly of their academic environment.

"They do wish they were being challenged a little bit more, that maybe their teachers had some higher expectations for them, which I think is positive, speaks well of our students, that they want to continue to grow and develop," Van Zyl said.

The students also reported on areas they felt could be improved.

"They did have some concerns with how adults, not only in our schools but in the community, maybe aren't being the best examples of role models for them," Van Zyl said. "They really feel like some adults can step up and help be better examples of how to interact not only with other adults but those around them."

Van Zyl said students also questioned the school's recent change to a trimester schedule.

"Things have changed over the last few years and maybe they don't understand why," he said. "Many of the things they asked about really revolved around are we communicating well with our students."

The benefit, Van Zyl said, is the same as conversations the district has held with the district's teachers and the community already this school year.

"It's to be able to find out from the people who are involved what their opinions, thoughts and ideas are," he said. "If we don't open our minds to listen to those, we can become very narrowly focused and narrow-minded. The more people you have involved, coming up with ideas, the better those ideas and solutions can be."

It is important to hear the insights of the district's students, Van Zyl said.

"To me, that's what we're in education for," he said. "We really should be listening to the kids, giving them an opportunity to share their ideas and giving them an opportunity to voice possible solutions to concerns they have. I don't think the learning process is complete unless you give them the whole array of opportunities."



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