Tuesday, September 4, 2007

High School Reform: One Parent's New Course List

I read something the other day that simply infuriated me.

Perhaps it was the fact I had received three separate notes from parents that morning wanting me to cut their precious baby some slack. One poor baby couldn’t complete ten math problems for homework because he had football practice. Another poor baby needed a seating change because she might learn more if she sits next to a particular student. Unfortunately, I am already aware that the particular student is now the little girl’s boyfriend since I had already confiscated one of those “Do you like me? Check yes or no.” notes the day before. The third parent was upset her poor baby had to wait until 11:30 for lunch when last year lunch was at 11:00.

I love meeting parents at the first of the year, but really...some go entirely too far.

What I read involved a blog post where the writer was posting certain high school courses they would add if they had control over upper level curriculum.

I know the blogger meant well, but as an educator the post really disturbed me.

The blogger was lamenting that schools don’t do enough to train kids for the real world. Then a list was presented of courses the blogger would like to see all high school seniors take such as:

1. Money: What a checkbook is, how to balance one, why credit cards are the enemy. Of all the things on the blogger’s list this is the one I can really agree with simply because it fits in with math and economics standards.

2. How to do laundry and clean your living area. What are we supposed to do? Build on a laundry room in every high school and purchase sorting bins for every student. I do see a great benefit of helping the kids with their laundry---mainly because I am so sick of smelling foul smelling clothes that are a result of sitting in someone’s washer for no telling how long before the adult in charge remembers to dry them.

3. How to cook a week’s worth of healthy food. While I am not a supporter of many of the menu choices I see in my school cafeteria (pizza served with mashed potatos) perhaps this would be a better class for parents in order to provide better choices than drive-thrus for dinner.

4. Auto care and maintenance or how to use public transportation. With regards to this suggestion and number 3 I do wish we would include more vocation type classes again in the curriculum. Like it or not we do have a segment of the student body who would benefit from these types of classes.

5. For women only: Your body, your cycle, your health, your pleasure. One section of the blogger’s explanation was someone should talk about masturbation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the responsibility of teaching “how” or “reasons why” to students. It’s not my place.

6. For men only---questions answered. The blogger stated, “I don’t know all the questions a boy has as he becomes a man, and I couldn’t dream of planning a course for it, but they should be allowed to ask them and be given the answers. See my response to number 5.

7. Money doesn’t grow on trees---how to get and keep a job. Apparently the blogger is upset at the cluelessness of 20-something coworkers. Someone should tell them they shouldn’t go out drinking on a work night. Someone should teach them how to dress at work. Heck, we can’t even get them to dress correctly for school even at the elementary level. Why would it make sense that we can teach them how to dress for the business world?

8. Manners---they matter. This course would cover thank you notes, chewing with your mouth closed, keeping elbows off the table, etc. The last time I told a student to get his elbows off the table during lunch I received a nasty note from the mom which led to a two hour meeting in the principal’s office. No thanks…..

9. Prince Charming is not coming to save you/what to do if you don’t marry rich----Schools need to teach this?

10. Health---When to stay home, when to call the doctor, when to go to the ER. Again, this might be a great seminar for parents. Children arrive throwing up, with high fevers, and with the full knowledge of the parent who sheepishly replies when called at 8:05 a.m., “Oh, I thought he’d get better.” In the meantime I have a sick, crying child on my hands, vomit all over the room and some of the other kids as well.

The last three are such mine fields I don’t think I need to comment. They are soooooo self-explanatory.

11. There are others in the world beside you

12. Your opinion matters----teach students to make decisions on their own not based on their parents opinions. Teach students to stand up for what they believe in.

13. Religion---God is too big to be just yours.

The comments to this post were equally infuriating. Here are just a few:
“Excellent list! I totally agree!”
“Wow…..I can’t even pick a favorite!”
“I’d send my kids to every single one”
“This list should be submitted somewhere for serious consideration for kids education!”
“I wholeheartedly agree. If the school system would listen we might get more competent adults.”

I would hope by now you might know where I’m headed with this.

Do you agree with me that the majority of the suggestions on the list are things parents should be teaching their children?

By middle school my children were sorting their own laundry and washing their clothes as well. They also had a bank account where their allowance was deposited.

Children learn not so much by what we tell them, but by what we show them. They learn to eat correctly, they learn correct manners, and they learn how to make competent decisions regarding their health and in other matters when they see their parents making competent decisions.

While it is important for educators to model certain behaviors for students it is not our job to parent them.

It really disturbs me that so many parents are willing to simply turn over their children to a school system with the thought that it is the school’s reponsibility to train a child to follow the correct path in all things.

When did it become my responsibility and the job of my colleagues to raise children?


Marsha said...

My moms says the same things as this blogger you mention. I have been listening to her say this since I was in high school. It seems that back in the day, her day, these things were taught in school, it really bothers her that these things are no longer taught. Great blog.

siobhan said...

I agree with you entirely. I could appropriate almost all these points and create a post entitled, "Things I wish parents would teach their children before handing them over to me." Unbelievable.

30plusteacher said...

Marsha, I am sure you mom was referring to things like "shop" which boys usually took and "home economics" which girls usually took. As I stated in my post I see nothing wrong with adding those courses back into the public school system as well as money management and other vocational type classes. Many of our students desire these classes and there is a need for them.

What I am concerned about is a growing opinion in this country that it is the school's job to raise a child. It is not.

I'm concerned with parents who congratulate another parent for suggesting that it is my job to teach their child how to wash, how to eat properly, and even the hows and whys to masturbation.

Siobhan, you have a great point. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Darren said...

You have it right.

I once read an article that a teacher wrote about homeschooling. It went something like:

I want every child to be homeschooled. Teach them how to dress appropriately. Teach them how to cooperate with others. Teach them how to say please and thank you. Teach them not to give up at the first sign of discomfort. Teach them how to follow reasonable rules. THEN send them to me.

I should have copied it. It was great.

30plusteacher said...

Darren, that article sounds great. Maybe someone will read this and realize they copies the article or received it in a meeting. I have a whole folder of things like that....

Thanks for visiting.

TheInfamousJ said...

"While it is important for educators to model certain behaviors for students it is not our job to parent them." - EXACTLY

I know how this is going to come off, and this is not a plug for my blog at all, but I actually ranted on this same topic on my blog not too long ago. And while mine was written as an emotionally-charged semi-stream of consciousness rant that was typed on my palm pilot while sitting in traffic on my commute home, after a trying day at school, I think that you've distilled the essence of my argument in your well reasoned piece.