Originally posted on June 8, 2015
The arrival of June ushers in thoughts of celebrating flags, fathers and the final days of school. Students often eagerly count down the days, finalizing plans for summer school, or if they are graduating, fun and work/college down the road.
The biggest challenge seems to come with those students who are more focused on the fun on the other side of the proverbial white tape than completing their studies with skill and proficiency. Now, part of this problem is systemic. Arts programs have year-end performances and sports teams are competing in playoff or championship games. But, some schools also seemed to have responded to this “tuning out” by encouraging teachers to not make the last few days too rigorous.
No matter the cause, this lackadaisical attitude can lead to a whole host of poor choices that can have long-term consequences. Despite how closely we monitor students, especially those set to graduate, the pressure that comes with the end of May and beginning of June, plus an unfortunate institutional trend to allow student to mitigate the consequences of any bad action, prompts the unprepared student to believe he or she can do almost anything and make up for it later.
Students will do things like not complete finals or cheat on said end-of-term assignments, violate campus regulations regarding fighting or drug use, or even fail a class that is a graduation requirement and expect to argue their way out of it. We have behavior contracts, student meetings, calls and certified letters home to parents that address these issues, but you see this behavior to a greater or lesser degree every year.
If we were leaving one job for another, the vast majority of us would not expect to get off scot free if we violated the company's rules on our way out the door. If we help our students to understand this concept they will be better off. In essence, they need to think like the college students or working professionals they are becoming rather than the teenagers they are today.
Rather than counting down the days, they should number the remaining tasks and plan how and when they will finish them. Checking things off a list and blocking out days for projects, homework or studying will help keep them on track.
As part of this planning process, building in time for fun or relaxation from stress is mandatory. There is nothing wrong with an afternoon off with friends or family to help recharge the batteries, so long as the work is getting done.
The final piece of advice may be the hardest: choosing friends wisely and drawing appropriate boundaries. Hopefully you have helped your student in this regard already, but pressure can impact normally good students in very bad ways. Now, you want your student to be a friend to others in times of need, but each student earns his or her own grades and sometimes needs to focus first on doing well in English or Physics or AP U.S. History and friends second.
In the end, the goal is the same: completing the school year well, or walking across a stage and receiving a diploma. Anything that gets in the way of that should not be taken lightly.
Implementing some or all of these steps hopefully will help your student not only finish the race of high school, but do so well.
Finding A Way to be Good Again
Originally posted on May 11, 2015
I recently began teaching The Kite Runner to my accelerated students. For those who have read the book, you are aware of the powerful cycle of sin, forgiveness and redemption at the core of this award-winning story. To put my students in the right frame of mind to understand the protagonist Amir, a man in his late 30s regretting something horrible he did in his adolescence, I asked them to think about the worst thing they had ever done and how they felt about it. While I didn’t want any of them to discuss the horrible thing that happened, several brave souls shared about feeling disappointed, sad and angry after the event.
One student’s answer took me by surprise, although in retrospect I suppose it should not have. This student said she didn’t live with regrets because she looked at life simply as a series of events that makes you who you are today. Again, because of my surprise, I probably got a bit more frustrated than I should have, and I regretted my response, which wasn’t rude per se, but was a bit curt, to be honest.
Yet while I could have been more diplomatic in my reply, I still agree with the core ideas of my rebuttal. The student herself was not at fault, as she was simply repeating the mantra of our age: No Regrets. We plaster these words on T-shirts and body art (and chuckle a bit when the body art is misspelled, creating a lifetime of irony I suppose). We don’t want to feel bad about who we are today and the mistakes we have made, so we wallpaper over them and declare the lumps, cracks and pits as giving the house that is our life a bit more character.
The reason for this philosophy is obvious: we don’t want to be hobbled with guilt so powerful it sends us into a spiraling depression. To avoid this result in their children, some parents offer the following advice: We all make mistakes but we do so because we are young or just don't know any better. The only thing you can do is understand that what has past is past and accept who you are today.
The problem here is we are teaching children that reflecting on our past actions is unhealthy. It is as if we are saying all choices in life are morally equivalent and we must merely accept the consequences and move on. It is like an emotional tornado has twisted through our lives, destroying relationships, causing physical pain and suffering, financial devastation or a myriad of other horrific effects, and all we should do is get up, brush off the dust, and keep on going. We ignore the role we played in the carnage, as we pretend we had no culpability for what happened when we often did.
Please understand I am not saying we should tell children to wallow in misery, as that leads to inaction, or worse. I am reminded of the 1994 film Reality Bites when Ethan Hawke tells Winona Ryder “I have this planet of regret sitting on my shoulders.” I laughed out loud at the line because it seemed he was saying it just to get her to fall for him. While there may not have been any true remorse there, the sentiment has some value. When was the last time we had, maybe not a planet, but even a pebble of regret for our past mistakes? Such an emotional response might help us not make the same mistake again, or it might even motivate us to act boldly when otherwise we would not. Getting back to The Kite Runner, Amir clearly is wracked with guilt over his past transgressions, perhaps to an unhealthy degree, but that guilt is the only thing that motivates him to do something heroic at the end of the tale.
While it is easy to say something vague and non-judgmental in response to our mistakes like “It is what it is”, there is another lesson we can teach the children in our lives. To quote Nick Carraway from near the end of The Great Gatsby, “I’m thirty. I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.” We know we have done wrong, in part or in whole, and we must own up to it. In The Kite Runner, Amir feels bound to his “past of unatoned sins”, but his mentor, Rahim Khan, however, offers hope for him, and for all of us who have done something wrong, big or small, in our past. “There is a way to be good again.”
Our duty to the next generation is to help our children find that path, which often must wind through a village of regret, however briefly, if it is to ever reach the land of true healing and growth.
Work Hard, Then Play Hard
Originally posted on November 10, 2014. In the ensuing years, vacations in the middle of the school year seem to have dramatically increased.
With the winter holiday season fast approaching, we seem to have more vacation days than school days. While teachers enjoy these non-work days as much as students, if we have to be in the classroom, then we hope students are there as well.
Unfortunately, many parents and guardians see the school days around the breaks as being an acceptable time to take their children out of school for an extended vacation. No matter the destination or purpose, it seems to many of us teachers that the families of our students do not see any significant consequence to students taking extra days away from their academic “jobs.” We in the classroom would beg to differ.
As adults, when we take off work for vacation, we often spread our duties to others and then, at the most, check in with work here and there while enjoying ourselves in the mountains, on the beach or in an exotic foreign destination.
When your student is absent from a day of school, he or she is missing 45-50 minutes of classroom instruction or activities, plus about 30 minutes or so of homework. This easily can add up to a 7-8 hour day for each day they are away with you. This work has to be completed at some point, either before the trip, between vacation activities or in addition to their regular work when they return. And, while I can provide alternate assignments, I cannot replicate the personal insight that comes from an analytical comment I might offer as we read or something he or she learns while participating in a group discussion. Those moments are just plain lost.
Sometimes students will say they only have to do 1-2 hours of work for each day they are gone. If they tell you this, one of three things has happened: 1) We have drastically scaled back the work, taking away much that would have enriched their learning, 2) they are just rushing through the assignments and not focusing on them with any great intensity or 3) they are enrolled in classes that are much too easy for them and perhaps should be advanced to the next level of rigor in the following semester or school year.
While they may be out of class, your child is still learning a lesson. Unfortunately, the lesson they are learning is that being in school really isn’t that important. Students are expected to be in their seats 180 days a year, which is only half a year and much less than in other countries. If a family cannot be “inconvenienced” to plan around their child’s school schedule, what is this teaching the next generation about delaying gratification and meeting one’s obligations?
I also doubt many parents realize is that when a student takes time away from the classroom, a teacher’s workload is increased as well. We have to plan alternate or reduced work for the student, which may be hard to do for those who teach in response to the needs of their students and may be changing the day’s content the afternoon before because a class either mastered a concept or needs to repeat it. Sometimes we feel like we are being treated like store clerks who are expected to have the assignment on a shelf and can simply serve it up at a moment’s notice. And the challenge for a teacher of tracking the absent work of the 5-10 students that may miss class on any given day can be challenging to say the least.
Now, I am happy to do this work for a student who has been ill, because he or she could not avoid missing class. They often come back half-healed and I watch out for them in case they need to visit the nurse. However, I get frustrated when parents place an extra burden on both their student and myself because they have what I call the “Havasu Flu.”
One of the popular mottos of this generation is “Work Hard, Play Hard.” If you want your student to be successful, they need to understand these occur in sequential order, not simultaneously.
Originally posted on July 28, 2014
A while back, the Internet was all aflutter about a child’s T-shirt proclaiming "I'm Too Pretty to do Homework”. Advocacy groups launched an immediate response and the item of clothing was pulled from the racks shortly after it had arrived. The protest centered around the complaint that if girls believe they are too good looking to work hard, they will devalue themselves and their abilities and others will quickly follow suit. While true, we must not be satisfied by only discouraging a store to carry one message tee. This is an issue that has been floating around for years that needs to be challenged every time it rears its ugly head.
Now, there is nothing wrong with looking well put-together and being a social person. Over the years, I have had students whose fashion sense and social skills range the gamut from geeky to graceful. Some come to class like they recently rolled out of bed while others appear to have just left a magazine cover shoot. It’s true that some families cannot afford nice clothes for their children, but that is different than the student who is dressed slovenly but has the latest smartphone in his pocket or her designer purse. All this is to say is that teens present their outer selves in many ways that may not be all that reflective of what’s inside.
The problem I have with the idea of being too pretty to work is that it simply is not true. No matter how good-looking they might be, teens will never have a job where they have no responsibilities other than looking pretty or handsome. The question is not whether the student is college-bound or has another reasonable pathway to success. What we’re talking about here is when student play dumb because being smart causes unwanted attention and differentiation. Our society might elevate the latest hottie or hunk to Greek god-like status, but that doesn’t mean we should. We must fight this urge with passion and vigor. While praising someone who is wearing a nice color or who is well dressed overall is one thing, we cannot allow the next generation to believe that looks are all that matter, because looks will not file reports or balance a home budget.
I get the temptation to want to be revered for appearance or athletic skill, but to hide behind them will only help in the short run. In addition to the wide swath of “regular” students who have sat in my class, I have had those seem to think their looks or some particular ability will exempt them from the responsibilities of life. What is interesting is that the ones who did achieve fame and success also worked fairly hard. My students who went on to be everything from professional sports players to a Rose Parade princess didn’t think a wink and a smile would make me give them a grade they did not deserve. Everybody has different skills and not everyone can get an A, but if they think they can build a life out of letting their looks pay the bills, they won’t have much to fall back on when those looks fade.
So, in response to the claim “I’m too pretty to do homework”, I would offer the following reply: No so much.
Getting real about college
Originally posted on April 6, 2015
As a fan of presidential trivia, I remember how surprised I was to discover that nine of America’s commanders-in-chief never attended college, with Harry Truman being the last to rise to the highest office in the land with such a humble pedigree.
Another reason this fact stands out is because of the obsessive push we have about ensuring virtually everyone in the next generation earns a four-year degree. We assume acquiring this piece of paper signifies you are an adult who is fully prepared to conquer the globe. The corporate world has bought into this mindset by requiring even entry-level employees have a bachelor’s degree.
The problem is the promise of a better life does not always match the reality. Students in America have borrowed more than $1 trillion to cover the cover of such an education and the average 20-something graduate has acquired more than $30,000 in student loans, with many owing much, much more. These recently minted alums need to find a job that will allow them to meet this significant obligation in the next decade, or else. This was easier in my generation and those before me, but with the skyrocketing cost of education, such a task has become much more onerous. Many of these problems and more are examined in the CNN Films documentary Ivory Tower, which I highly recommend.
Now that we’ve identified the problem, what is the solution? Well, as I see it, there are three questions to ask before making a decision that will impact the next 15 years of your student’s life, if not longer.
Who’s offering the most “free” money? Colleges are in the business of providing students with an opportunity to learn and, like other organizations that package and sell a product, have become very adept at concealing its true costs. Sure, going to college can cost $20,000–$30,000 a year, but the university’s financial aid department is willing to present what appears to be a very appealing package covering almost all of these costs. A closer look, however, reveals much of this assistance comes in the form of loans that must be paid back. It may look like your student is getting nearly a free education, but instead they will be expected to pay back $8,000–$15,000 or more per year in loans. If your student has earned a full-ride scholarship based upon grades or extra-curricular activities, then he or she is in a very fortunate position and probably should sign acceptance papers as soon as humanly possible. Yet for the vast majority of students, going to college is nowhere near this easy.
Is a four-year college the best place to go? We have been conditioned to think a four-year institution is the best place to learn what is needed to be successful in the professional world, but helping students earn degrees that automatically will translate into a job a week after graduation has never been the primary goal of college. It is helpful to remember higher learning was originally modeled on the idea of Plato’s Academy, in which the wealthy elites would contemplate the meaning of life and the world around them. Clearly such an education is unnecessary to fix a drain, repair a car, or help someone open a bank account. While it is a larger battle to convince companies that internship programs would be much more valuable to them than the bachelor’s degrees many require, we should at least accept the obvious fact there are many, respectable professions requiring advanced training not found at your local university. These programs often are less expensive than a traditional college degree program and have a much greater likelihood of job placement after graduation.
Is a four-year college the best place to go right now? Over the years, community colleges have earned a negative reputation for the same reason Ivy Leagues universities have garnered a positive one: acceptance rates. Relatively few people can get into Columbia, Harvard or Yale, but anybody can take classes at your local community college. Because these programs are so easily accessible and affordable, it has lead people to believe teens go to community college as a last resort and most students at these schools subsequently drop out and become failures in life. They also believe the opposite is true for those attending the regional university. As someone who has taught at five colleges, four of which were four-year institutions, I can tell you this simply is not true. You have good and bad students at both places. You might have more poor-performing students at community colleges because a wider swath of the population attends these colleges, but that doesn’t mean your student will fall into the trap of failure any more than he or she would attending any other school (as a side note, graduation rates at your student’s four-year school of choice may not be as high as you might think). And their workforce training programs offer a practical education at a quite affordable cost.
The honors programs at community colleges, for example, are their best-kept secret. At the community college where I currently teach, I know the director of the honors program and we regularly discuss its merits: small class sizes, great internship opportunities and a dedicated counselor making sure students are on-track to graduate from our institution and transfer to the four-year college of their choice, all for thousands less than going there right out of high school. I tell my students to run the numbers, and then buy a pennant from their dream college and put in on their wall as a reminder that community college is a steppingstone, not a final destination, for those who have higher aspirations.
So, the most important thing to understand is whether it is best in the long run for your student to attend a technical program, a community college or a four-year university.
For, in the end, it matters not where you start, but where you end up.
Tool, Not A Toy
Originally posted on October 5, 2014. We recently completed a class project on teen usage of social media, so this seems appropriate to post again.
As a child of the 80s, I grew up in the era of the PC. I got my first computer, a Commodore 64, when I was in junior high. Like many kids my age, we also had an Atari 2600. I was introduced to the Apple IIe in college and never looked back.
As adults however, it’s easy to forget how much children today are hard-wired, if you will, to the digital age. We may think of iPhones as a new invention, but they came out when my students were still in elementary school. My one-year-old niece can take a selfie almost better than I can.
For the first time this year, I am allowing technology in the classroom, mostly because I am forced to do if I want students to produce the best quality work. I am teaching a speech class, but we don’t have enough desktop computers on campus for me to hog a media lab one period a day for them to write their speeches. When students are working in my other classes, sometimes they ask if they can listen to music while they do so. While I play classical or jazz for some classes, at other times I allow them to choose their own tunes when they write or draw a scene from a story. The end result tends to be better work than I might have received otherwise.
Not, don’t get me wrong: if I confirm they are texting or goofing off, I am enforcing school policy and turning the device over to the discipline office. I have established a mantra that guides my philosophy for electronic usage: It’s a tool, not a toy. If you use it as such, we will not have a problem. If you deviate from that philosophy, we will.
There are some larger principles we can draw from this approach. One of the things we are being asked to teach students is digital citizenship: how to use technology in a responsible way. In an era where everything is instant, we need to re-introduce an appreciation for patience. Here are some suggested guidelines:
Think before you text.
Don’t take that risqué selfie.
Don’t post that mean picture to Snapchat.
Unplug and be in the moment.
But we can’t just blame tech-obsessed teens when many of use our phones almost as much as they do. I can’t count the number of times a student has told me they are responding to a parent’s text during class or are on a “bathroom break” because Mom or Dad expects them to return a voicemail.
This may sound harsh, but the “think before you text” rule should apply to parents as well. One of the best ways you can help your student focus on art, math, science or history is to wait to contact him during a break, if you must do so at all. If someone is in the hospital and you need to pick your daughter up during third period, her day is going to be thrown into chaos whether or not you interrupt her second period class with a text. And if you want to tell your growing teen you still love him as much as when he was five, try a note in with his lunch like we did back in the digital dark ages.
And, one final thought: I am amazed at how many smartphones I see whose front glass is cracked like a haunted house mirror. Even if you are frugal and purchase an older model phone, after taxes and activation fees, it’s still easy to spend $250. I have never understood how parents make this kind of investment and then don’t include a protective case for the device. Teens rarely think of protecting their phone when horsing around with their friends. You would never send a football player into the game without a helmet and shoulder pads. Why would you do so with a phone, which for students can be a communication device, research tool, word processor, camera, and music player?
Like I said before, it’s a tool, not a toy.
On Living Deliberately
Originally posted on July 21, 2014
I recently wrote about the idea of helping your student focus on fewer activities rather than more. And while keeping teens focused on doing a few things well remains good advice, I realized some might think I'm suggesting you tell your children they can't try new things, which was not my intent. Toward that end, let’s talk about the benefits of trying out a new activity, club or sport.
One reason echoes what your parents told you at the dinner table countless times when you or your siblings protested a new dish: You won’t know if you like until you try it. In my last post, I talked about the football player singing in the spring musical. Well, maybe once he performs in front of others, he will discover he loves acting and wants to continue with drama, even if means he chooses to give up his sport later on. There also is the possibility he can do both and this is an opportunity for him to learn how to juggle multiple responsibilities, just like you do.
But what happens when participation is required, not voluntary? She might have signed up for art class, but it was full and now she finds herself in photography. This provides a good opportunity to transform a negative into a positive. While painting canvases and shooting pictures require different skill sets, her artist’s eye will serve her invaluably as she captures the world around her in a much different way than her classmates. And, with the way media are being mixed today, developing skills in both can be an asset down the road.
Like you do in your own life, any time a teen wants to add something to his or her schedule, there is nothing wrong with employing a simple cost-benefit analysis. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you and your child should talk about his or her motivation and what he or she may have to sacrifice in order to participate. Why does she want to take AP Chemistry? If she has good grades in the sciences, has a friend or two in the class who can help her and is considering a career in the field, this sounds like a worthwhile move. Why does he want to join the basketball team? If he enjoys playing casually with friends and wants to get in better shape, this might be a good move for him, too.
When your teen joins or remains with a new activity, club or sport, he or she is making a deliberate choice. There are a myriad of ways to occupy one’s time and narrowing the field to the best ways to spend that time is a valuable tool for daily living after high school. As I quoted Thoreau’s Walden before, it seems fitting to do so again when it comes to the benefits of living a deliberate life.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Who knows what your children will discover about themselves if you let them explore their own “woods” a little bit?
Doing More by Doing Less
Originally posted on July 14, 2014
One thing America prides itself on is being a land of infinite variety. We have ice cream parlors famous for the number of choices they provide, popular restaurants with secret menus for regulars and big box stores featuring rows and rows, or webpage after webpage, of options.
The same is true with class schedules for today’s students. Seeking to meet the diverse needs and interests of modern teens, high schools provide an abundance of activities, clubs, electives and sports. While we think being involved in more groups in high school means your student is likely to get into a better college, it seems that doing fewer things better would be more impressive to a school looking at thousands of applicants playing the same game as everyone else.
Now, there is nothing wrong with trying something out for a season or a semester, but adding activities on top of each other wears you out and doesn’t do as much for your teens as you might think. They become exhausted when they have daily club meetings and sports practices in addition to their usual stack of homework. And, with travel ball programs training students in the off season, being at practice all the time eats up time that could be spent on other activities, perhaps involving the whole family. In addition, the costs associated with partaking in all these activities, after you factor in uniforms, equipment, travel expenses, training and so forth, adds up pretty quickly.
While it is fun to see the star football player belt out tunes alongside the rest of the drama cast in the spring musical, perhaps this should be the exception rather than the rule. It is perfectly reasonable for your student to have 1-2 sports or activities at school that occupies his or her time in addition to regular schoolwork. And now with the push to have students complete mandatory community service hours, there is little time for old-fashioned, nonscheduled teenage fun. Besides, maybe it’s time we get back to the notion that it’s good for adolescents to find ways to entertain themselves without an electronic device or a coach telling them what to do.
When I teach Henry David Thoreau to my juniors, I pause for a moment to focus on what he said in Walden about making our lives less complicated. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, count half a dozen...”
When it comes to our lives, and those of our children, this is an idea worth considering.
The Hardest Lesson of All
Originally posted on September 1, 2014. Sadly, the number of students I have lost has increased since then.
Working in a place as teeming with life as a high school campus, it can be very hard to process the complex emotions that abound when we lose one of our own. While we hope our students never have to experience such a loss so young, the odds are strong this will not be the case.
I teach at a suburban high school in a middle-class neighborhood with high home values and city streets that seem to roll up as the sun goes down. People move to our area to send their kids to our school and neighboring campuses. One might think we have escaped the specter of death, but that simply is not true. In the last 10 years, I personally have known a staff member and four students that we lost, one just a few weeks ago. Since no one is immune to such suffering, it is vital we find ways to help students endure this experience.
At a larger school, a death might not have as significant an impact, but on my relatively small campus we all feel the loss when we someone dies. Personally, if he or she was enrolled in my class, I remember where the student sat, the jokes he or she cracked and a host of other, otherwise insignificant details. It’s a given the mood on campus is going to be awkward for a while, but the healing process will be stunted unless we deal with pain and sadness in a real and tangible way.
For students, the death of a family member teaches them people eventually die, but the death of someone who sat in the next row or two seats over suggests to teens they might be next. The natural fear this produces needs to be addressed. Schools are quick to provide counselors to help students process their emotions, but just talking with your child about how they knew the deceased can go a long way as well.
Memorial services also are very important in the healing process. What typically begins as an appropriately somber event often includes moments of laughter as silly and sometimes moderately embarrassing stories are shared. Students need to know it’s OK to laugh as well as cry and this is an ideal environment to begin that practice.
Finally, social media is becoming an excellent way to express positive emotions. We are quick to criticize the entire medium as a venue for bullying and belittling, but sharing pictures and thoughts on a memorial webpage or donating money to a group or organization can be a great way to turn a tragedy into a legacy of hope.
Whether a student dies from a car accident, cancer or unknown causes, the ultimate goal is to convince his or her classmates they must go on living even though their friend will not. Asking those who remain to live their lives differently, often with greater intentionality, can be the greatest lesson to come out of such pain.
But unlike other important lessons we teach, it is one that doesn’t get easier with repetition.
The Thankful Student
Originally posted on November 24, 2014
In this season where Americans are asked to number the things for which they are thankful, encouraging this practice in the students you send off to our classroom each day is a healthy activity not only for their present but their future.
Often when it comes to school, students seem most thankful for the times they can escape its hallowed halls. They desire to extend vacation as long as possible and moan and complain when work is assigned near major breaks. But, if we can help them look at education from a different perspective, perhaps that attitude might change.
The first thing students should give thanks for is the fact they get to be students at all. In many places, both past and present, near and far, education was and is not highly valued. In some places today your gender still determines whether or not you are educated, while in others it is your income level. Now, we clearly see education disparity in America, but to actually be denied an education is another matter. When I look out across my classroom, I sometimes wonder what it would be like if only boys filled its seats or only a certain race were privileged enough to receive the tools they need to have a chance to succeed in life. If that were the case, my room would be empty both physically and spiritually.
Students should also be thankful for the teachers and staff who work hard to provide that education. While I am the last to complain about the hours and pay involved in my job, as I knew many of the pitfalls when entering this industry, I do not deny that much of what I choose to do to provide the best education possible for my students is neither required nor well compensated. For all those who think our vacation days are carefree, please note that I am “on vacation” right now, have worked much of the weekend and still have a very large stack of work that will occupy my week. Some weeks are better than others, but they should remember we willingly sacrifice a good deal of our “off hours” to help them succeed.
The last, but certainly not the least, of those who deserve recognition are many of you: the parents and guardians who do your best to raise your children and prepare them for what lies ahead. You are the ones challenging them to apply themselves in traditional or accelerated courses. You are sitting down each night and trying to help them understand the complexities of their assignments and figure out how they can finish their work on time. You are driving them to practices and competitions for the extracurricular activities that enrich their education and lives. You are explaining to them that learning from occasional failure can often be more important than achieving constant success. What you do is not required either, but is given freely out of love and a desire to see them do as well as, or perhaps much better than, you have done in the game of life.
To show students how much I care, and to give them a bit of perspective, I will from time to time “pull back the curtain” and explain the amount of work that goes into creating or grading their work. This helps them realize I am as committed, and sometimes more committed, to this process as they are. Helping them understand how dedicated you and so many others are to the proposition that their education is vitally important is a great way to motivate them to achieve success at this level and beyond. If such thankfulness prompts them to work harder in their present studies and future jobs, it likely will reap a bountiful harvest down the road, giving them much to rejoice in as they mature.
Now that’s something that deserves to be celebrated on more than just the fourth Thursday of November.
I have been a public high school teacher in Southern California since 2005 and writing since junior high. I have an affinity for chocolate, photography, sarcasm and well-written TV shows that refuse to talk down to their audiences.