Let the Kids Speak: Lewis, Fourth Grader from Oregon

In our “Let the Kids Speak” series, we’re handing the mic to the students and asking them what they want out of their school experiences. These kids—from district, charter, and magnet schools across the country—have sky-high aspirations and clear suggestions for how the grown-ups in their lives can help them realize those dreams. Today, fourth-grade student Lewis discusses his goal of becoming an engineer, and why he wants more group projects (but not more homework) from his teachers.

What do you like best in school?

I’ve always liked building stuff and seeing how things function. So, my favorite class in third grade was  STEM . We made these bridges out of paper and saw how many hex units they could hold. And every time we put enough weight on the bridge to break it, we had to try and make it stronger by writing about something that would make it stronger and then  trying  again. We also did other tests on bridges. Like, one time we tried to make a suspension bridge and to see if it was strong enough, we’d put it in front of the fan and turned it on low, and see if the bridge fell over.

What are you excited about for this year?

I know we'll be learning about Native Americans from Oregon, so I'm pretty excited about that. It’s interesting to me just because I think Indian tribes are very interesting. Even though there are lots of tribes from Oregon, I don’t know much about them. That's also why I'm excited—because I've never learned anything about them.

I’m also excited to keep playing soccer. I’ve been playing since I was in kindergarten and have been on five teams, but it’s always been easy to find time for my homework. And believe it or not, I actually like my homework. Every night, what we do is, we read for 20 minutes, we write for 10 minutes, and we do a sheet of multiplication for 10 minutes. So, it's always an hour, and that works really well for me, so I have time to play soccer and do the other things I like. One thing I don’t want is 500 pages of homework every night, at least

What do you think you might do when you grow up?

Really, there are two jobs I'd like if I could choose from them, and it would be hard to choose. I would either be a Timbers soccer player or an engineer, a mechanical engineer. I would like to build engines for cars. If I could have my way and do anything I wanted in school, I’d build a car, any type of car I wanted. Actually, in third grade, we did make these cars, and we tried to design them by making seat belts and seeing how much it would support our little drivers. I want to have more projects like that, where I’m actually doing things like if I had the job for real—that would be pretty fun.

In STEM class, I learned how to do architecture and build things to make them strong—but I don’t want to be an architect, I want to be an engineer. Even though we did architecture in STEM class and not engineering, it helped me understand more about what it might be like to be an engineer. You need to know architecture if you want to be an engineer because the architecture is like the blueprints, which is the first step for engineering.

What’s been challenging for you in school?

Something that was hard last year was I had to sit next to this one boy, and we had to be partners, and the boy just did not listen to anything I said, really. And he was, like, always playing around with his toys. It was very frustrating. You might think I didn’t like going through that, but I actually did. I really like working in groups with people I don't necessarily know yet and making new friends. In third grade, teachers partnered us up with groups with people that we don’t necessarily know all the time, and I want them to more of that in fourth grade, too.

Anything else?

I like to imagine when I’m playing video games or playing with my friends after school. I especially like X-Men. If I could choose an X-Men character to be, I'd probably be Colossus. First of all, because he's funny. And second of all, because he can build things easily and smash through walls. He’s a lot like me—I really like building things and taking things apart.


Read more about students' experiences in school in​ The Opportunity Myth—then take the first step by requesting your own free action guide featuring tools and advice to help more students in your community have worthwhile experiences in school. 

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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