“Falling is not a problem; getting up again and again is”
Failure is not a bad option. These remarkable words stand at the top of an article by Belinda Luscombe (Time magazine, September 12, 2012) accompanied by an even more remarkable statement: ‘Resilience helps kids more than high SATs do.’
Many of my high school students, quite a few special education ones in the bunch, have failed in the area of tenacity and willpower to succeed no matter what the odds are against them. They belong to a nationwide tendency by the new generation to feel entitled to success, even when they haven’t worked hard enough to deserve it. Is our welfare system to blame, as some right wingers claim? Or do they perceive that social mobility is no longer as accessible as it was for prior generations of Americans?
In some inner city schools, many teachers fear for their life, aware that some of their high school students belong to violent gangs (is there any other kind?) They therefore do their best not to make waves, i.e. not to upset their mean looking and tattooed pupils. Entrance to the schools is blocked by cops and metal detectors, but even then, the bad guys manage to sneak some weapons into the classroom. Of course, education and learning suffer greatly, but even then some students manage to graduate while many others drop out to explore illicit gains. That is one dark side in education; the other one can be called politics and mismanagement, which is the one I plan to discuss in this space.
very young gang members
Deutsch: Lage von XY (siehe Dateiname) in den Vereinigten Staaten. English: Location of state of XY (see filename) in the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just finished another round of testing, this time with the new state assessment for the state of Texas dreamed up by idle bureaucrats; the last one was perfectly O.K. It gave me however a chance to talk to freshmen from all walks of life once they finished testing. It’s amazing how much information and interest a teacher can elicit in a couple of days in open and frank exchanges. As usual, we had 3 hours with nothing to do – nothing allowed of course, except talking, till the gods of education decided to let us go to class for the last period.
Give me 20 handpicked kids and by the time they graduate from high school they’ll go to college and gravitate to a successful career (JCS)
Alright, I made this quote based on an article that showed that IDEA’s students were selected from the cream of the crop. A neighbor’s daughter, who excels at all academic topics, was quickly accepted for a tuition-free four years of high school. Special education kids need not apply as they will, if accepted, a big if, receive no preferential treatment. Neither will misbehavior prone students, intellectually challenged youngsters and those in general who don’t see going to college as one of their main goals. All of which takes me to the next step..
A teacher in my school with 18 years of experience has an interesting technique to “enforce” discipline management in her class. Every incoming student has hand-outs on their desk which they must address immediately. No down time, no idle chitchatting before the lesson actually starts and transgressors of this rule are called to order without delay. I have seen other instructors do things differently and suffer the consequences: They sit down at their desk while students are still incoming or they write instructions on the white board with their back turned to the class. Granted, these are high school youngsters who should know how to behave; but a teacher who is not ready to keep them busy from the get go will see their class fall into chaos with frightening speed, especially if the group exceeds 25 teens. It is always much more difficult to recover discipline than to start right away in an orderly fashion.
My main concern when I receive a special education freshman from middle-school is to guide him/her toward occupational independence. After 4 years of high school, this student must have a clear idea of what path he is going to follow and my job is to make sure he has had all the information at his finger tips in order to decide. There are questionnaires, surveys, assessments, manual practice, pamphlets, state agencies, presentations by colleges and vocational schools, and all kinds of vocational supports in a public high school. Even if we do not offer a particular field, we can “bus” the student to the specialized institution where he will receive a thorough preparation. For example, we offer classes and practices focused on business, on personal care such as cosmetology, cooking for large groups (complete with a trained chef), auto mechanic, air-conditioning technician, woodwork, plumbing, electricity, construction, medical field (nurse, medical assistant), computer design and website construction, and quite a few other areas where the student should be able to find work more or less easily.