Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Not Try?

It is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do.
-John Baptiste MoliƩre

Responsibility is a funny thing. We all like to consider ourselves responsible and then site all of the things we do which shine as examples of our responsibility. However, we all keep a dirty little secret. From time to time, we all are guilty of only being responsible for the things we want to be repsonsible for. Unfortunately, the things we want to be responsible for aren't the only things which need to be accounted for.

As I was driving home yesterday, I was listening to talk radio as I have become prone to do on long drives, and a story came across about two schools not far from here (which will remain anonymous for the sake of this discussion) that had not done as well as they had hoped on their standardized tests. Now, this should come as no suprise considering many schools are struggling to keep pace with an ever-rising bar for performance. The thing that caught me off-guard is how blatantly school officials blamed the impact of scoring by Special Education students.

Although I am early in my career as an educator, I have come to the conclusion that this reasoning is merely scapegoating. I have seen too many students express the view that the standardized tests by which schools are evaluated are "stupid" or "no big deal". Unfortunately, this is not the case. These tests are neither stupid nor a small deal. It is a shame that students do not take the opportunity to score well and allow their teachers and administrators to be recognized for all of their hard work. Now, I am not saying that all students blow these tests off, and I have been impressed with the efficacy of the incentives here at PHS, but I have also seen the attitudes toward school work that lead me to believe that even the students who are trying on the tests could score better if their attitude toward school were better.

I have been saddened by the number of instances where school work has come second (or lower) to athletics, clubs, jobs, or recreation. Don't get me wrong, I am coaching two sports this year and was involved in a number of extracurricular activities while in high school, but it seems like more and more, the purpose for attending high school is being diluted by all of the extras. It is tragic that none among us can envision a student ditching sports practice to write a big paper or passing up the chance to go out with friends to study for a test; on the other hand, we witness students failing tests or not turning in assignments because they had practice, or a game, or a dance to attend.

I do not know what the solution is to what I see as an upside-down priority list, especially since we, as a culture, put so much emphasis on the extras ourselves. I guess that I would really like to see what you all have to say about this. Why do you embrace the responsibility of a new car, being a member of an extracurricular activity, or a part-time job while shunning the responsibility to yourself to achieve an education?

Let this be the first post in which your comments are a continuation of the topic I present, and hopefully going forward we will see that is a much more fruitful activity.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Quick Week

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.- Groucho Marx

Maybe it is just me, but it seems like this week has flown by. With the whirlwind sprint of the first two weeks behind us, we are settling into the routine of the year. Whether it is a seemingly endless list of short stories and Story Notes or a nagging deadline for a persuasive essay, remember that every assignment is one more rung on the ladder to your goals. Keep your eyes on the prize and don't let the day-to-day grind of the school year cloud your perspective on what we are accomplishing.

With every lesson we undertake, we are expanding our horizons; the base of knowledge with which we go out into the world. The skills that you learn in my class, and every other class you take, may not directly translate into whatever you choose to do with your life, but, if you let it, the determination and hard work it takes to acquire them will become a habit which will serve you well no matter what you choose to do in life.

If nothing else, please take this final thought with you. In life nothing comes without a cost. You will never have a life of comfort and success without sacrifice. If you can honestly tell yourself that you can be happy for the rest of your life knowing you never reached your potential, then so be it. However, if you don't think you can do that, buckle down and grind it out. I can assure you that the juice is well worth the squeeze. See you in class.