Archive for the 'How to Think About School' Category

How to Think About School, part 1

Sam is known for his bad temper. One day in the hall, I saw a guy walk up to him and give him a big shove—and call him a name that I shouldn’t write here. Sam responded with a smile, a laugh, another name I shouldn’t print, and an affectionate headlock.

We’ve all seen and understand this type of thing, and we understand: it’s not what happens to us that determines how we react. It’s how we think about what happens to us that determines our reaction.

School happens to all of us. Most people think about it the wrong way. And because you’re probably surrounded by people who think about school the wrong way, it has probably never occurred to you to think about school any way other than the way you think about it. And that hurts you—big time.

It’s not your fault. Teachers and parents have been begging and bribing you your whole life to go to school, to do well in school, to do homework, to study for tests. They’ve given you the impression that all these things are favors that you do for them. Wrong. School is not a favor you do for adults—school is a favor that adults do for you.

Can you think of any friends of yours whose parents would be more stressed-out if they stopped hassling their kids about school? No. It’s a pain for parents to keep track of their kids’ grades and come up with a system of rewards and punishments to motivate their kids to work up to their potential, and put up with their bitter reactions. We parents would all be happier if we could just be your buddies all the time, never making you mad at us for trying to help you become the best you are capable of becoming.

And teachers? At no point in my twenty-year career has my employer offered me more money for teaching extra Spanish to my students. At no point has my school taken money from my paycheck because I wasn’t feeling well and gave my students half a period of free time. The fact is, I could have made just as much money in my career with half the work—if I were not concerned with helping my students learn as much as they possibly can.

Adults have to hassle kids about school only because young people tend to care more about the present than the future. The typical kid would be perfectly happy to throw away opportunities in the future to have fun in the present. Those crabby adults who hound you about school care more about your future than you do. They’re doing you a favor, and the only thanks they get is attitude and a roll of the eyes.

I’m sure you’re used to being told what to do all the time. That’s because children have to be told what to do, or they’ll develop all the wrong habits and no skills. For most of your life, you’ve been a child. But what about now? Are you ready to be treated like an adult? Then stop acting like a child, and show them that you’re ready to do the work necessary to build your own future. Take responsibility for your education.

When you take responsibility for your education, you’re taking responsibility for your future. You’re in the driver’s seat of your own life. It’s always difficult for parents to see their children as adults and give up control (you little punks grow up so fast…), but when they see that you’ve learned to think of school as the place where you build your future, they’ll be glad to stop nagging you about your grades. (I’m sure they’ll find other things to nag you about.)

So look—the fact is, the better you do in school, the more options you’ll have open to you when you decide what you want to do with your life. School is a favor adults do for you, not the other way around. (Don’t forget, taxpayers will pay thousands of dollars this year to give you a free education.) Once you start approaching school with a selfish attitude—”what’s in it for me?”—you’ll realize that homework is the opportunity to practice a skill you need to improve at. Quizzes and tests help you to make sure you’re learning everything you’re supposed to learn during a unit, and keeping up so you’re reviewing, not learning new stuff for your final exam. Final exams are your last opportunity to review material and cement it into your long-term memory for use in future classes and/or the real world. And teachers are not mean people trying to make you do work—they are nice people working harder than they have to, trying to help you build a successful future for yourself.