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?
Originally posted on June 10, 2014
While many teachers and parents in America are focused on the rollout of new educational standards, there is an interesting conversation going on across The Pond. Recent news articles out of London have highlighted a debate in the British government about plans to enforce stricter consequences for parents whose children are not in class on time and fail to show respect for teachers and the educational process.
At my school, like many others, we have an assortment of positive and negative incentives to attend class and participate in learning activities. From detentions for tardies to prize giveaways sponsored by local businesses for perfect attendance, we strive to help students understand the importance of being in their seats when class begins. We also honor students throughout the year both as a staff and individually for their efforts to do well in class and help others do the same.
While the problems in the United Kingdom are specific to the country itself, the proposal of holding parents responsible for the actions of their children may launch an interesting discussion on this side of the Atlantic as well. The proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” naturally comes to mind here. Despite the best efforts of teachers and staff, it is all too easy in a student population of several hundred to several thousand for some students’ poor attendance or behavior to go unchecked. This is why we need to work together to help students be on time and on track. Teachers, counselors and support staff often put in significant effort to helping students succeed, but it is only with the help and assistance of parents and guardians that we will achieve this goal.
Whether or not we need to adopt these specific policies, hopefully this conversation is a reminder we all are responsible for teaching children positive habits and behaviors, whether or not we possess a teaching credential.
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.