Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Early Graduates: A Clash in Philosophy

I'm going through something of a mid-career crisis right now. It's not that I don't still love my job, I do. I just feel like I am doing something wrong. Actually, not so much me personally (although I am sure there is a lot I am doing wrong), but more the whole system.

It's pre-enrollment time here at my school. This morning, we sat through an "inservice" designed to help us to help our seminar kids to figure out what classes they need to take next year.

One of our big issues this year has been getting kids (mostly seniors) to take an actual class instead of "volunteer service" or being a student aide. We had some problems with our schedule this year that caused sort of a traffic jam with certain classes and kids ended up being placed into classes they really didn't want to take or being shuttled off to be an aide somewhere.

During our discussion, this issue came up. We were being told to encourage seniors, especially, to take more rigorous classes. Don't let them slack off just because they are seniors*. Actually, encourage is not the right word, more like force them to take classes they really don't want to take, just so we can tell ourselves that we are encouraging rigor.

They are resisting. They are pushing back. I know this is not new. Kids have slacked off their senior year probably since the senior year was invented, but lately, it seems like it's a much bigger issue than it has been in the past.

My district allows early graduates. Traditionally, this option has only been allowed for a few kids a year, and those kids are usually ones that struggle and see it as an incentive to pass all their classes. Since we went to a trimester schedule, it has been a lot easier for kids to get all the credits they need to graduate before the end of their senior year. This has served to add to the list of those who can escape graduate early.

It has also agitated our principal (and many of our teachers) as we cling to the idea that we have these kids from August to May for four years.

I've been thinking about this today and maybe I'm in the minority here, but what I can't figure out is why is this such a big deal? For my state, funding is based on the enrollment at the end of September, so that would not be affected. Are we afraid of everyone thinking that our school is not rigorous** enough?

Maybe I feel this way because I know those kids are going to be stuck in one of my classes because they will think it is the easy way out. When a kid truly does not want to be in my classroom, I hate it just as much (maybe more) than he does.

I feel like we are doing so many things wrong in our schools. We have a system that has not changed in decades. We still require the same things that were required when I graduated. And probably more or less the same things that were required when my mom graduated.

Have you ever really sat down and thought about how much the world has changed since then? Good Lord, we've really only had Internet for the last decade or so.

Kids have different values, different home lives, different expectations. Kids have changed. Is it for the better? I don't know, but I don't think we can ignore that fact.

I think we have to adapt. We can't keep talking about "21st Century Skills"*** like they are things we will need in the future. We needed them a decade ago. We have to find a way to meet the needs of these kids. We have to be willing to realize that we have to change when the world does. 

Otherwise, I just don't see how we can survive.

NOTE: Sorry about that. I realize this may not represent a string of coherent thoughts, but boy do I feel better.

*What you don't have that problem???

**I am beginning to hate that word, but that is a whole other post.

***What are those anyway? Could we BE any more vague?

****Got a little crazy on the foot notes. See NOTE above.

Friday, December 9, 2011

This is Why My Job is So Much Harder

During my seminar, students are not allowed to go anywhere if they are failing a class.

Yesterday I sent a student to a teacher whose geography class she was failing. Today, she was so excited that she was now passing that class. She said that by going in to talk to him about her grade, he was willing to give her an extra 50 points just for having a good attitude.

I really can't compete with this.

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