Friday, September 25, 2009

Have I Become an old Curmudgeon?

I received an email from a staff member who, quite rightfully I think, was wondering where several of his students were. He had heard that they were dancing and rehearsing for a homecoming skit rather than in class.

Of course, as is par for the course, the students neglected to tell him about this obligation (if, indeed, it was even sanctioned by the homecoming planners).

And, of course, this sends the message that school is secondary.

I can see both sides.

Yes, homecoming is a vital part of the fall season and school spirit. I still remember the skits we put on 15 years ago when I was a senior. I still recall all of the foolish things we did as a staff here for homecoming and snow fest skits. I think those are justified in that they help supplement a student's academic experience here.

Yet, I think it's ironic that our staff just had to complete an AYP survey because our district is on AYP and our principal just had to attend a meeting on AYP.

So on the one hand we have our feet held to the fire thanks to NCLB and high stakes testing, yet we let kids miss class time for such things. And let's make no bones about it . . . no one ever gets into a university or gets a job based on homecoming or prom or plug in whatever you want.

The students will argue, "But we don't have any time outside of school."

And there lies the true shame.

They see their sports or jobs as essential - not class time. I am reminded of one fellow teacher here who couldn't believe what one of his seniors said, "I didn't study last night for the test, but we won so it's all good."

Call me biased (I am a teacher after all), but this is insane.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I played sports in high school and got caught up in all of that. My father would never let me have a job, reasoning that we lived on a farm and I helped out there. Plus, he was forever telling me, "You have the rest of your life to work."

I thank him continuously for that.

But I never had to pass a core curriculum test in order to graduate. I never faced such high standards as our students do now to get into college. My high school never faced such sanctions as NCLB promises.

So while I was glad that I played sports and never had a part-time job until after graduation, they had nothing to do with my success in college and in the work place. That was due to my in class experiences. Not missing out to practice our skits.

Each member of our building leadership team to come up with a vision statement for our school. I have to put the academic or intellectual lives of our students first. That means instructional time. That means having someone not only highly qualified but also passionate and caring in front of the students every day. In short, that means valuing class time.

Or am I just an old curmudgeon?


Minnesotalady said...

I'm with you Kurt. Friday afternoon, we have to attend our pepfest. Kurt, it's a 3 hour pep-fest. I just attended an AYP meeting Thursday. So.. I know the feeling.

Ene said...

RE: Homecoming absences -- With the changes of the configuration of Student Council (new name - new guidelines), there should NOT have been students missing much class time for the things that you mentioned. In any case, they certainly should have gotten prior approval from you, verified by their class advisor.
As senior class advisor, I can assure you that I would NOT have given permission; so I hope that the students in question were not seniors. Case in point: we will be decorating for the Coronation tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon. There was a bit of grumbling, but when it was made clear that we would NOT use class time, they managed to rearrange their schedules...
Bear in mind that there are a couple of "scheduled" activities that will require them to be absent this next week -- rehearsal comes to mind; but they should be the exception, and you should have been notified in advance by the administration.