Tuesday, July 7, 2009

School Isn’t For Everyone

It is hard for me to believe this and feel like a good teacher at the same time, but I do. Of course, I did feel better after reading there are worse things than dropping out of school from siobhan curious: classroom as microcosm, Siobhan Curious states,

“I also think there needs to be a shift in social attitudes supported by a change in the system, so that it is easier and more acceptable for students to leave school if they are unhappy and not learning, spend some time in the work force, and return to school whenever they are ready.”

When I was dating my husband, I heard many stories from him and his mother about the difficult times he had in school. He ended up joining the navy and getting his GED. I have taught many students who feel like staying in school is a waste of time.

My students were in the Occupational Diploma Program which was a district program and not a state recognized program. My students were students with disabilities that kept them from passing the state exit exam in order to receive a state high school diploma. This means that they walked at graduation and got their occupational diploma but the state still considered them drop outs on the AYP report. What a slap in the face this was for my students! They followed a rigorous curriculum in order to receive this but they still weren’t counted as being successful.

The local Career and Technology Center was focusing on college bound students who could pass licensure tests so my students were not really encouraged to attend. There were no programs like brick masonry, or building construction, or auto mechanics offered for my students. Of course, I heard that it was hard to find instructors but I also heard that they didn’t really seek anyone out for these types of programs. I’m worried about the future. We will still need our cars worked on, and houses built so who is going to do this if we are not training our youth in these occupations. I had students who were willing to learn this but no one willing to teach them. Some of my students didn’t see the value of staying in school when they wanted and needed to learn a trade. I tried to encourage them to stay in so they could show future employers that they were willing to hang in there and not quit on their commitments but that is the only reason I could really see them staying in school.

I did find information about Job Corps for my students and invited a speaker to my class. I was amazed how great the program sounded. I have had few students go through the program and was thrilled to hear that they were successful with the program.

I believe I needed to find out what options my students had besides school. I also needed to think about the realistic consequences of choosing these options. My students depended on me to be honest and they trusted my opinion. I couldn’t just be single minded and force my hopes and dreams on to them but had to think about what was in their best interests. I also communicated a lot with their parents as we looked at options too. By this time their parents were so frustrated and concerned that they didn’t know which way to turn. Many times I laid out the options for everyone to see so they could go home and discuss these options. Since everyone’s goal was for the student to find success, we were able to help the student make the best decision at that time.

Sometimes school isn’t for everyone and all I hope to do is help my students become successful in finding their way towards independence.

Original image: 'One Room School' http://www.flickr.com/photos/57038667@N00/2822293763 by: Cindy Seigle


M-Dawg said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing.

First of all, I'm a huge supporter of tech schools.

I teach in an inner city high school and a lot of my students do not do well in a traditional HS environment. Over the past few years, my school has tried to create various programs to decrease the drop out rate (the latest program I will be part of next school year). My school doesn't offer a lot of tech courses for our kids due to budget cuts. And, the belief is that if a kid wants the tech classes, they should go to a tech school.

The tech schools here in MA won't let students into their schools if they have a discipline record (which unfortunately a lot of them do because they don't do well in the traditional setting). Tech schools here are funded by tax money and are considered public schools but I don't get how they can be "picky" of who they let into their programs. My school has to take all students.

A problem that we are seeing around here is that a lot of students are not going into the trades anymore (which is sad since we will see a shortage). We need kids to go to school to be a mechanic or plumber or other trades.

We need to come up with options for kids that just don't like or do well in a traditional school setting. Maybe follow the European model, perhaps?

Kobus van Wyk said...

Perhaps we should reconsider our notion and definition of "school".

siobhan curious said...

Thanks for linking! This is a topic I feel strongly about. Our one-way, single-path approach to education is causing terrible problems for students who have discovered that it's not working for them. If only the possibilities were more varied and flexible, we could serve our children better and guide them toward lives in which they continue learning and they achieve success on their own terms.

loonyhiker said...

@M-Dawg: it sounds like MA is a lot like SC. It is a catch 22 situation for these kinds of kids. Eventually when we have no plumbers or mechanics to fix our problems, maybe the school system will wake up and face reality! I really think they are missing the boat and ignoring a lot of student needs by doing this. Thanks for leaving a comment!

loonyhiker said...

@Kobus: You are right! We need to look at the definition of school and how it meets our students' needs.

loonyhiker said...

@siobhan curious: Thank you for a thought provoking post. I too feel strongly about this and I'm so glad that you wrote about it.

Margaret said...

Wow - I thought every state had a tech program in their schools. In my area of OH we have a joint vocational school that several contiguous counties share. They turn out auto mech, auto body techs, building, diesel mech, cosmetologists, some sort of health-care people and probably several more I don't know about. They even have nursing classes for adults at night & in the summer. (that may be paid for by the students) I'm very glad it's there - I can't imagine what families & young kids around here would do if there wasn't somebody in the family who'd gone to this school and learned how to work on whatever was broken. My area is Appalachian poor. 2 of my 3 brothers went there and even though neither of them works in the trades they learned, it gives them a backup plan in case they can't do their higher paying dangerous labor jobs. One may have been able to transfer his auto-body repair skills to learn his ironworker job. It's normal here to work on your vehicles & equipment yourself when you've learned a trade. I can't believe more places don't have a joint-vocational school model in place. All the participating districts pitch in $. They have a joint vocational school board with representatives from all districts. Everybody picks up the kids with their normal bus routes, they all get on the bus (buses?) going to the J-V school at their home high school and ride about 45 min there. They do their thing academically and trade-wise and arrive back at their home high schools in time to catch their bus home with everyone else. Never paid attention to whether the bus that transported to & from the JVS belonged to the JVS or to the home district, though. They still have to take our OH Graduation Test and take their required English & Math credits to graduate though - they just do it at the JVS and have 2 ceremonies, JVS graduation and home high school graduation. (and set not to conflict with each other)
I wish people would realize that college isn't the only way to adult success. I appreciate my car mechanics as much as I do my medical providers (probably more :))Viva tech & trades track!

CSET test said...

This is right for the students. I am agree with you.

Anonymous said...

My district has a huge focus on college prep to the exclusion of tech prep. This has made for a really almost hostile environment for may kids who need the hands on, technical education that meets their needs.

loonyhiker said...

@Margaret: Thanks so much for sharing about your district. It sounds like they are on the ball with vocational instruction. I wish others would follow their lead!

loonyhiker said...

@anonymous That is what I'm afraid will continue if we don't offer some kind of alternative for many of our students. Hopefully someone will wake up to reality before it is too late.