Sunday, January 18, 2009

School is just not for me

I've heard this quite a few times from a variety of students that have moved out of mainstream classes and into Independent Study over the last two weeks.  The number of students has now reached about a half dozen, and while I don't take it personally, part of me seriously objects to the idea that we will be a more educated society by having kids do packet work to gain knowledge.  Funny thing is, the people that usually go on IS (Independent Study) are usually the students that have trouble coming to school because they prioritize the classroom on the lower level of their social ladder.  And what better way to enjoy the social benefits of high school while avoiding the mundane classes?  Students take core classes from their once a week IS teacher, but come to school to take the classes they enjoy (Photo, Drama), classes they can't get on IS (AP classes, Chemistry), and participate in all sorts of extra-curricular (sports, run for Homecoming).  The problem is that the student can't get to the school for the important things, but manages to reach the all-important track meet.  Something seems wrong with that.

Then again, part of me sees it as ok.  If we are serious about reforming the system, why not make Independent Study more available to all students?  In fact, why bother having educators at all if we are going to really promote student-responsible learning?  Because it isn't a very effective method to learning, that's why.  If the idea in our society is to simply go through the motions, finish the packet, at become another cog in the grade factory, then increasing Independent Study is a pretty good idea.  However society has been railing public schools for failing to teach children, and at the same time insisting that public schools adjust to the child's life schedule.  I've heard of the following excuses for going on Independent Study:

-I need a job for money for my new car.

-I can't take the drama.

-It's too stressful.

-I need to be able to attend (add athletic event) with more regularity.

-It doesn't fit with my dance schedule.

-School is just not for me.

Interesting, but also a pain in the ass because of two scenarios. 

First is the student that finds out he/she is on the waiting list for Independent Study and comes into the classroom raving that they will be watching Gossip Girl reruns at 10 in the morning while the poor, pathetic suckers are at school.  More time for late night beer pong is always a good thing. 

Second is the student that applies for IS and then totally disappears from your class because they KNOW they'll get accepted, even if they don't.  Then they come back after two-three weeks and want make up work because they found out that the IS program is full, and the teacher gets to deal with the parent that allowed the brat to stay home from the harsh reality of high school.  Sheesh.

I'm all for student centered learning, but if we want to prepare those kids for the next level (or get them to actually learn something), make it more like college.  Have two to three classes a week and assign work that is relevant, not busy.

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