Listening to Students
As a student, I anticipated parent-teacher conferences with dread. My grades were fine; it was just that I was a bit of a clown. The rides home from these awful meetings were usually in silence, although my father’s red face said it all. The post-conference ritual was repeated twice a year: my mother would defend me, my father would ground me, I’d behave for a week or two, then it was circus time again.
Earlier this week my wife and I met with our son’s fifth grade teacher. Having been through these events with my two older boys, and knowing our youngest’s inclinations towards the “circustry” arts, I prepared myself much in the same way I imagine my father prepared himself. But what I heard was terrific! While he does tilt towards silliness at times, he does his work, cares about his classmates, and is respectful to his teachers. It dawned on me as we listened to his teacher describe our little boy that she really understood who he is. More importantly, she listened to him, and she has learned how to push his learning buttons.
In the last few weeks I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to listen to some students myself. I visited a few economics classes at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton and Dalton State College to talk about the Federal Reserve and recent economic performance. I also met local high school AP economics students when I was in Carrollton. I found these young folks to be engaging, inquisitive, and interested in the economy and how its performance affects their future.
They asked great questions like “Does the Fed consider productivity measures when analyzing the performance of labor markets?” (yes, we most certainly do) and “Is underemployment worse today than it was during past economic recoveries?” (yes, it most certainly is). Their questions showed a depth of understanding of just how nuanced current economic analysis really is. And they asked terrific questions about the Federal Reserve and its role as well.
I’ve written before about the Atlanta Fed’s Economic Education program and how we work with teachers throughout the Southeast to do what we can to equip these dedicated people with tools to help teach economics to students. We listen to their needs and apply their feedback in developing our workshops and online programs. We will continue to work with our teachers and, based on their feedback, develop lesson plans and tools they can use to help them push their students’ learning buttons.
By Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed's public affairs department
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