A bit of role reversal took place yesterday at the Bartlesville High School (BHS) Fine Arts Center, where students offered lessons to teachers.

The panel of about a dozen area high school students shared insights and instructional tips during an area stop for the state education department's traveling summer conference.

The high school was a host site for the annual Engage OK on the Road Conference, which attracted hundreds of education professionals from around the area. The all-day event included around 150 breakout sessions, covering everything from digital media to working with children who've experienced trauma.

One of the sessions, “What Students Wish Their Teachers Knew,” featured state school superintendent Joy Hofmeister as moderator while members from her advisory council and BHS students talked candidly about what they wish teachers knew about school culture, college and career readiness, as well as overall student encouragement.

Students emphasized the importance of genuine connections between teachers and students and how personal feedback motivates them regularly.

“There are kids who want feedback and you can't stop giving it to them. I always want feedback on my work, even if some other students don't,” one student remarked.

Another student echoed that sentiment, noting how she appreciated that one of her favorite teacher's door was always open.

“If there was ever a time where you had a question or confused about the material or subject, you could always go in before or after school or during his lesson plan or at lunch, and he'd help you. I appreciated the way he was flexible and adapted to students so much.”

Several others said that having a teacher who takes an interest in their personal lives and supports their extracurricular involvement, ranging from schools plays to track meets, has tremendous impact.

“It's crucial to know your students as well as the material you're giving them,” said one student.

One student added that having a solid relationship with a teacher makes her “want to learn in class and go to school.”

During the session, Hofmeister asked the student panel how much homework is enough.

A majority of the students said they understood that most homework helps them master the material, but they pointed out that having homework every night and on weekends can get overwhelming and hard to balance among other obligations.

“For two weeks in April, I logged how long I did my homework, and it was six and a half hours a day,” remarked one student.

The students urged teachers not to assign “busy work,” which they described as mindless, repetitive, and boring assignments.

When it comes to transitioning from middle school to high school, several students said they wish they had a better knowledge of the mechanics of grammar and writing.

“I don't like English, but in middle school, teachers should have students do more writing, like writing essays, one student said. “I know what a simile and a metaphor are, but actually writing and learning how to form that stuff is something to practice on before high school. I think it's important to know, especially for college applications.”

The panel also agreed that teachers who share real-life experiences can help shape a student's future. They said that courses like financial literary are especially beneficial, too.

“Knowing how to think for yourself, cook for yourself, pay your rent is really important for students who are about to be real adults,” remarked one student.

Hofmeister explained how valuable student insights can be to the many Oklahoma public school teachers who are new to the profession.

“Out of just under 50,000 teachers in Oklahoma, 46 percent have only been teaching one to five years. The average length of stay in Oklahoma (in the teaching career) is just six years, so we have a lot of turnover,” she said.

Hofmeister noted that because of a statewide teacher shortage, public schools have been relying much more heavily on hiring individuals who have not yet fulfilled the state's requirements for a traditional or alternative teaching certification.

As a result, “104,000 Oklahoma schoolchildren were taught by someone not tested in the subject or grade they were teaching,” she said.