Terry McAteer: Senior year of high school a total waste | TheUnion.com

Terry McAteer: Senior year of high school a total waste

Terry McAteer
Terry McAteer

It is a new school year! Having taught seniors in high school for a majority of my teaching career, I want to go on the record for completely revamping senior year in high school since it is a worthless year of academics.

We have created a system wherein this valuable year of molding and inspiring our young adults towards greatness allows them to unfortunately revert to a bunch of pre-school helpless twits. Ask any parent who has had a high school senior of late and they will tell you — it is the year from hell.

As the school year progresses, every senior level teacher becomes fed-up with their class and tries, using back-flips and song-and-dance routines, to gain any sense of academics. You obviously think this is hyperbole … nope, this is fact.

College applications are now due at the end of October. Therefore, senior year from then on is a waste of time. Since seniors know that the grades to get into college have already been submitted, they treat school as a painful exercise in futility. In fact, straight A students are often barely passing second semester classes. Non-college bound youth are dragged down to the lowest common denominator because the disease affects all students equally.

Therefore, we are wasting the time of these bright minds for requiring of them to be in school and we are wasting the time of teachers who find it increasingly futile to instruct.

I propose that following the submission of the college applications, formal instruction should be ended and all students should perform two essential tasks for the next seven months before we hand them a diploma in June. My proposal is not a voluntary program but a mandatory function in receipt of a diploma. I believe most students would relish the notion with the end of classroom work to real hands-on life skills. Furthermore, freshmen, sophomores and juniors would be reinvigorated by having all seniors afflicted with “senioritis” off the campus.

November 1 would mark the beginning of Phase One: 3 1/2 months of volunteer work. Society has provided to these students a free education for the past 12 years and, they in turn, need to give back to those less fortunate. Students would be in charge of pursuing their area of their passion and securing the appropriate volunteer work. Students would provide full-time labor such as working at the Food Bank, volunteering at senior citizen homes, helping to construct Habitat for Humanity homes, etc.

Think of the value that would be gained by our youth in reaching out and serving those less fortunate and the benefit provided to many agencies that serve them. Senior level teachers would be freed up to interface with the students and the agencies that they work for insuring that the fit is a good one and that the student is giving 100 percent.

In mid-February, Phase Two would start: 3 1/2 months of workplace internships. I have found that while public schools make a valiant attempt to infuse academic knowledge into our youth, we fail at preparing students for the skills needed to be successful in the world of work. Students need to be exposed to 9 to 5 work, appropriate attire, work habits and even boring workplace skills such as filing and copying.

This is not about meaningful work experiences as that will come following college. This is about working in a workplace and learning the culture of work. In some cases, especially for students wanting to get into the trades, students might find a lifetime match for their skills. This 3 1/2 month internship is to support a workplace which is an adult-centered environment not a student-centered one. Senior level teachers would again interact with the students and the workplace.

Obviously, half of the students would start with the workplace and the other half in volunteer assignments and then flip roles so that the amount of labor would be broadly spread across the community. Furthermore, the proposal is cost neutral but the rewards for the community and the students are huge. The volunteer agency and the workplace would grade the students. Students who fail one or both of the assignments would not gain a diploma in June and have to make up the time during the summer months so as to gain admission to their college in the fall.

It’s just an idea but the educational community (high school and university systems) need to seriously sit down and reach some meaningful solutions to end “senioritis” because, as the old ad campaign notes, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Terry McAteer is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at editboard@theunion.com.

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