Megan Ross: Help us make your children great
A few weeks ago I was sitting at my dining room table planning for the upcoming school year and creating new lessons for my American Literature class. I had my laptop open, plan book open, anthology open, and after a few hours I took a break and logged into social media.
And there it was. A post from an acquaintance highlighting the things high schools do wrong.
It started out with, “There should be a class in high school called stuff you should know before you turn 18 …” It didn’t say “stuff”. That’s my substitution for another s-word.
The graphic said students should be taught things like how to change a tire, balance a checkbook, change the oil, drive a stick shift, and responsibly use a credit card. It also pointed out that students should learn to hem pants, sew on buttons, cook more than mac and cheese, learn basic first aid, grow their own food, and learn the real costs of having a baby.
I agree that these are useful skills. It’s not the list of skills that bothered me. It was the sentiment behind my acquaintance’s post that the curriculum being taught in high school is a waste of time. That students would be better served learning these basic skills rather than completing curriculum.
What made this worse, was that this acquaintance is a local elementary school teacher. The post called out high school teachers, as if what we do is less important than the skills listed on the graphic, and said that all those skills should be requirements for graduation.
What? You can hem pants? Here’s your diploma. Really?
People are so quick to vilify the local high school, when in reality Nevada Union offers courses that will teach students nearly all of those skills, including cooking, auto shop and horticulture.
When did it become the job of the teacher to teach the child both curriculum and basic life skills? What happened to the support at home? What happened to that village?
My mom and dad spent many hours in the passenger seat teaching me to drive a stick shift. It mostly consisted of being told to stop on a hill and then start again. It was painful. Tears, whining, complaining — and that was just my dad. I’m kidding. It was me. But, after many hours and much practice, I mastered the manual transmission. I wasn’t allowed to give up. There was never an assumption that the local high school was out of touch because they weren’t the ones teaching me. No, it was a parental responsibility. And it was my responsibility to learn.
Schools have taken on more than their fair share of preparing students for life. There are students who come to school hungry and are fed two meals on campus. There are students who live out of cars and need basic essentials (like soap and shampoo and clean underwear) and the schools provide that.
We teach things like how to write a thank you note, how to effectively shake hands, and how to conduct yourself in an interview. Time in the classroom also teaches collaboration, research and problem-solving. In addition, academic subjects have a list of standards in reading, writing, science, history, and math moving students toward college and career readiness.
And yet, somehow teachers have become the ones responsible for teaching kids everything they might be expected to know in life. Ever.
Going back to that social media post, my favorite part of the graphic was the last line, “I’m 26 and I still don’t know how to do these things.”
That about sums up the current generation. “I’m going to blame someone else because they didn’t teach me what I needed to know.”
Shouldn’t the end say, “So I taught myself?” Or, “So I did research and figured it out?”
If we really want to look at the whole child, it takes more than just time in the classroom. Every year kids leave the local districts and head for other options. Public schools in neighboring towns, charter schools, private schools or home schools. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not short-sided enough to believe that every kid fits into one mold and should therefore attend the local high school regardless of circumstances. However, I get frustrated when I see people shopping around for the easy option. Not the option that will yield the best end result.
I don’t think Nevada Union gets its fair shake. People look at the large population and assume it won’t be a good fit. In reality, it’s the size of NU that allows the school to offer so many programs for students.
I think people look at this generation of students and think that society has failed them. That schools have failed them. That testing has failed them.
While there are issues with testing and benchmarks and standards, I don’t see that as the entire issue. It seems to me that those outside the classroom need to uphold their end of the deal. Kids should be challenged and pushed to achieve more. They should not be given the option of choosing the easiest and fastest path.
There are a lot of things you need to know before you turn 18. However, it’s not solely the job of the school. It’s the job of the community. So, parents, grandparents, community members, youth pastors, coaches, and business owners, help us make your children great.
Megan Ross is a Partnership Academy teacher at Nevada Union High School and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinion is her own and does not reflect the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board. Contact her via EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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