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Sixth-graders voice wishes and give a little advice

I never thought I’d find the Holy Grail of student success in, of all places, the Trader Joe’s customer service line.

The posted sign proudly read that employees’ goal was “to provide the highest quality of customer satisfaction delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, fun, individual pride and company spirit."

Then it occurred to me. In the raging debates over how to improve our schools, maybe the answers ought to come not just from teachers, politicians or specialists with 20 acronyms after their names. Maybe we need to ask the customers — our students — for their thoughts.

So that’s what we did in the closing weeks of the 2015 school year. My sixth-graders came up with a pretty thorough list of critiques and pipe dreams. Some of them were pretty convincing; others, not so much. But in all of them, somewhere between the scribbled lines and eraser marks were the aches of students who just want to be heard.

So without further ado, this is what they had to say:

You don’t have to go to business school to know that a client has to have a say in what we consider to be in his or her best interest. And while I suppose I can’t humor all of the demands my 126 tweens would make of me, maybe I can at least show them a little of the real world they need: the one where people listen for a change.

Mario Penalver has master's degrees in education from Pacific Lutheran University and in humanities from the University of Chicago. A community theater director and actor by night, by day he teaches English at Truman Middle School in Tacoma. He is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. On Twitter at @astramario.