Marshall County High School administrators are getting a better understanding of how their students view their educational opportunities following the completion of random interviews this fall.

Instructional supervisor Angela Fisk shared information from the interviews of 100 MCHS students at the November Marshall County Board of Education meeting. The interviews were part of the University of Kentucky’s Next Generation program to get feedback on a variety of topics related to students’ education.

First-year Marshall County High School Principal Robin McCoy jumped at the chance to learn what her students’ thoughts were on what they were experiencing during their time in school.

“I want to know what my students are thinking and what their viewpoint is on how we’re educating and what our experiences are like here,” McCoy said.

Questions ranged from what students thought when they think of their school to how would they design their own school. Fisk and McCoy explained interviewers then analyzed the initial data and separated the responses into four different components: responses that surprised the interviewers, what delighted them, what concerned them, and what do they need to think on more.

McCoy said one of the “delights” was responses from students who thought of the school as family. “They feel their teachers care for them and they care for each other. To find that in a high school environment is often surprising. High school students don’t often say that,” she said.

One of the responses she considered surprising and also something she and other teachers will explore is students wanting to develop their own educational and career path in high school, which can involve more individualized instruction.

“It’s really personalizing that learning experience, which is no easy task for any district,” McCoy said. “I think we need to think outside the box of how we’re still honoring (core educational) content but honoring a kid’s personalized learning experience. How do we make that personalized to the kid in class who wants to be a welder and is sitting next to the kid that wants to be a lawyer? How do we prepare both sets of students?”

Even responses to questions about how students would design their own schools revealed a more personalized take on learning with later start times to the school day. To some of the feedback, McCoy and other educators do not have the answers yet.

“But it pushes me to think bigger and deeper because they want it and we have a calling to provide it,” she added.

An area of concern Fisk shared with school board members addressed personal electronic devices and students writing essays on their smartphones, as well as some students stating they didn’t feel challenged in some classes.

McCoy and Fisk both said they are looking at the next step from the feedback and want to develop more relationship building within the community and its schools, as well as between students through their twice weekly “huddles” that connect small groups of students and adults. And while the pandemic and non-traditional instruction away from school has impacted that, they can also take time to examine how to redirect teaching and learning into a new direction.

“There’s no better time to think differently than when you’re pushed to do things differently,” McCoy said.