Sunday, March 19, 2006

Blame the kids?

Stephen over at Outside the Cave alerted me an article from the USA Today that talks about the problem in society and education is a child's work ethic. Patrick Welsh, a high school teacher in Alexandria, Virginia, states that a U.S. student does not show the same work ethic as minority students, and therefore education reform will never hold any true value until that changes.

As much as I might dispute some little parts of the article (a good teacher does make a difference, so does socio-economics), the gist of what Welsh is saying is very true in the United States. Yes, the current American student has a lower work ethic. Yes, the many of the parents expect a lowering of standards. Yes, kids and parents often find the path of least resistance. And finally, yes, schools are helping in the situation.

This is my fifth year of teaching, and this blog is about observations that I have seen in my four complete years in the field. I know, some parents will read this and say, "Well, that's not my kid." Ok, but this is the culture that is in our public schools. The teacher that I work with will often (as in, once/twice a week) comment that students now have this enormous sense of entitlement, as if the school owes them something. Then this idea ends up tangled in with parents, who believe that their child never lies and really, really works hard. Please. If I truly made this a college style class, only a third of my students might pass. The rest don't have school on the brain, and aren't really pushed do anything other than barely pass. Social issues have become the priority with students. So you ask, "Isn't that how it has always been?" It sure has, except that parents took charge and became parents. I see parents trying to be friends, parents that have no control, and parents that simply don't care. Every Friday, I ask my Intro students to do a quickwrite about what they are going to do during the weekend. Play video games and party are the two most common answers. When I call parents about grades, guess what they say that their child's punishment will be? Yep, "I'll ground them from Saturday nights and take the Play Station away." Think it really happens. Nope. Kids get nasty, parents cave in, and then it leaks into school. No matter what is said, kids are always allowed the final say in the transfer of a class. I can't worry about that. Hell, I'm of the opinion that I want the strong ones in my class to make them stronger. If the weak want to cut and run, who am I to stop them. The main problem I have is with students that are failing, and their parents come in to put them on Independent Study, and then they graduate. I mean, come on. The student fails for three straight quarters, can't tie their shoes on a good day, and actually finish all the work on their own time? Are you serious? Independent Study at our school, like any other, has its place. But our "place" has a huge waiting list of students who have figured out that Independent Study is like a home school diploma, except that their is no teacher. Every student that I have talked to in the IS program has clarified this.

Sounds like I'm being pessimistic about my job, but I still love it. Nothing is better than being a classroom teacher. The single biggest frustration is the fact that we are underpaid professionals that take grief for the shortcomings of bad parenting. If you were to ask me which I would rather want; an increase in pay, or total support from parents, I'd ask for the second one in a heartbeat.
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