Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I think some of the most important things we teach students in school have little to do with academics. That is one of my concerns about homeschooling. Where will those students learn the skills they need to be successful in society as a whole?

Some things are obvious: work habits, getting to class on time with the materials you need, or the simple act of showing up on a regular basis.

Other skills can be more ambiguous: working as part of a group, learning to be polite and respectful, and acknowledging authority.

Some students come to school understanding that adults are in charge for a reason - the greater good for all. Others come defiant, leary of all authority figures, determined to make their own rules in every given situation. These are the kids who constantly have to be asked to remove their hat, day after day, hour after hour. They have to be reminded to not speak when the teacher is talking, don't bother other students, ask and answer questions or give comments respectfully.

Through the years, I've had a multitude of students who are unwilling or unable to follow the basic rules of school. Many of these, I've encountered later in life. They are struggling to hold a job, even at McDonald's. One young man didn't understand why HE had to wear the same uniform as everyone else. He got angry and threw his uniform in the garbage, and ultimately lost his job. Others find that employers are much stricter with their tardy policy than the school was. Others find that employers expect you to show up at the job with the necessary tools you need for that particular job and without them, you no longer have a job.

Other students lack skills to interact with others politely and respectfully. They are constantly making comments to their teachers and other students, interjecting little jibes here and there that make everyone's life miserable. When confronted, they claim they didn't mean it, didn't mean anything by it, or flat out deny they even said it. Unless they change their ways, these students will also struggle in the work force.

I think schools need to spend more time and effort on these issues. Too many students come from homes where these skills are not valued. We must teach them. Someday, it may not matter if they can balance an equation, understand the influences the Romans had on our government, or be able to dissect a frog. But it will certainly matter if they can hold a job, be a productive member of society, and understand the social mores of our groups.


LB said...

Agreed, well said. In my experiences in the classroom I've discovered the same, defiant students. Students, for the most part, learn by observation. It is our job, as teachers, to lead by example. This can get exhausting, as there is little reward. The topic of rewarding students would be an excellent blog-- i'm on it.

Di Di Ross said...

As a former homeschooler, I have to take up for the homeschooling crowd. Most homeschoolers are not simply stuck in a house, hiding from the world. They participate in the larger homeschooling community, are active in political and community functions, and work collaboratively on real-life problems on a daily basis. Obviously, there are those who do not fit this description--just like in public schools and private schools, there are students who are polite and motivated along with those who are not.

My biggest problem with homeschooling, and the reason why I chose to put my children in school, is that homeschooled students are often taught from only one viewpoint. They lack the ability to understand and empathize with those who hold different views. This is not what I wanted for my children, and when I saw that happening, I gave up on homeschooling and placed them in a world that is truly diverse. In public schools they have met teachers and peers who are from a variety of backgrounds and hold a variety of beliefs. For this I am grateful.

No matter the method of education, parents are responsible for teaching their children to be respectful of authority and to take responsibility for their actions--a job definitely easier said than done.

cossondra said...

You're right, of course, DiDi, and I guess my comment was vague.. out of line.. both. I didn't mean it as a bash to the homeschooling community. One of my all time favorite students was homeschooled through grade 6 and was a wonderful young lady with all the traits we hope our students will have. Her parents did a fantastic job of teaching her those skills.

Parents are key figures in the attainment of these skills. But when parents can't or won't teach their children, schools have a responsibility to step in and step up.

Kenneth said...

I really enjoyed reading your post. I completely agree about the importance of teaching our students about respect, work ethic, cooperating with others, responsibility and the importance of following the rules. As a middle school physical education teacher, along with being a high school coach, I feel I spend more time teaching my students and players about the importance of the above mentioned qualities. This is only my fourth year of teaching but each and every year I see more and more students refusing to follow the rules and students who show no respect to their teachers or any adult. When I was growing up, I feel when I got in trouble in school my parents would always blame me and asked me what I did wrong. Nowadays I feel parents are always looking to blame the other student or blame the teacher or school for what went on. Trying to teach students responsibilities and commitment is becoming increasingly difficult because many times I feel teachers and schools are not getting help from the parents.

However, I still strongly believe in trying to instill my students with core values that will hopefully make them successful adults and allow them to reach their potential. There are still going to be many days where I feel I am banging my head against the wall with no hope of winning this fight. l strongly believe in the teaching profession and will continue to try my best to instill these values your post mentioned. It is really our only hope for our students!

cossondra said...

Thanks Ken. I think your point that coaches carry part of the load of teaching responsibility and respect is excellent. All adults who touch the lives of our students are part of the equation.

I too find it frustrating when parents are not supportive of our efforts as educators. I am always baffled when a parent listens to their child's side of the story, even when it makes no sense. Too often, I walk away from parent encounters shaking my head, with premonitions of what is to come for that child and parent as the stakes are increased, the consequences become 'real' as they stand in front of judges, handing out sentences of 'real' time. Suddenly, all the excuses those parents have made for students over the years become dust in the wind! It is sad, really.

In the meantime, all we can is hang tough and continue to make imparting respect and responsibilty a critical part of our classroom routine in hopes some of it will stick.

Kenneth said...

I agree. Its unfortunate that coaches in the past had a much great affect on their students and players lives I feel. Now days with parents agreeing with their child or the school not supporting true discipline it can lead to many more problems down the road. Many times it feels like the school is passing the buck hoping someone else steps in and does the right thing. I use to wonder if schools are just taking the easy way out or if they truly think their decision is the best one there is. I am fortunate to teach in a high to middle class school district where many times the students do “grow up” but there are some cases they do not and continue to make the same excuses and have the same problems throughout their entire lives.

cossondra said...

As far as schools not supporting true discipline Ken, I agree that we have a huge issue there. I personally feel as if my hands are tied. We have no detention in our district, unless we provide it ourselves. Even then, transportation before/after school would be a huge issue. Suspension is the only real option with any teeth for an administrator, but that often is not a true deterrent. Parent phone calls sometimes help, but only if you are actually able to reach the parents. When you do reach parents, about half the time you get true support.

I've been around for a long time.. and it seems each year we lose more and more ground in the classroom with discipline. We have to reclaim our schools and reclaim education before it is too late.

I know I sound defeated but most days lately, I feel that way.