"Students Sound Off," is an ongoing student blogger contest aimed at providing students a loud and clear voice in the education debate presented by HuffPost Education and Get Schooled. As the fifth post in the series, high school sophomore Sarah King answers the question:
If you were given the chance, how would you help kids at your school graduate?
It isn't fair to generalize or judge my peers who wouldn't be considered "successful" in high school (and keep in mind, successful is a very relative term), because there are an immense number of kids whose strengths lie in other areas than a textbook or math exam. I'm tired of everybody blaming apathy for not graduating. Thus, I'm going to propose a notion, an abstract concept really, to help kids graduate, namely, compassion.
"HA! Compassion? That won't fix anything" some may say. But wait, don't be so quick to pass judgment! No, compassion is not a tangible change, but from this metaphysical conception, concrete adaptations are inherent. Compassion is a peer-to-peer bond, a teacher-to-pupil link, a sense of security in an unsure milieu. "Impossible!" says the voice of reason, puffing out his chest. "It's impossible to accommodate each individual; there are too many kids! Not enough staff! Kids don't get along these days... and faculty's underpaid anyway!" says the Common Critic, waving statistics to support his thesis. And Common Critic, is right... to a certain extent.
Teenagers are hot with hormones, brains aren't fully developed, and learning's boring man. Or maybe there are just more important things to do than sit in the classroom, 'cause money needs to be made, the family needs to be supported, and oh by the way, there are siblings at home who need a babysitter. There's no easy answer to either scenario, but Compassion there, sitting in the corner, has been awoken from a rather long, dreary, nap. She sweeps the cobwebs from her shoulders and stretches. It's been years since she's been allowed to shine in a classroom, 10 years in fact. Oh yes, rewind to the days of kindergarten.
Think about it. No one flunks kindergarten. "That would be because you don't do any work in kindergarten!" shouts the Skeptic, shaking a fist furiously. "You can't fail playtime!" HA. Wrong. In kindergarten you learn to read. In kindergarten "no child is left behind." In kindergarten kids help each other out, they learn to spell, and count, and do simple arithmetic (all foreign concepts to a 5-year-old). In kindergarten rarely has hatred been bred, and it's here more than ever, that the environment that surrounds those kids begins to shape and mold the being of that 6-year-old with a runny nose. Why is it so adorable when little kids are nice to each other, when they help each other out? Because it's honest emotion. Five-year-olds have no underlying intentions, their empathy is raw.
It isn't until kids start growing up that Compassion is shooed out the door, and ushered into the closet. "Well that's because kids start having problems with each other. You can't like everyone," says Logic, nodding wisely. "Public school is a little portrayal of society, and in society there's a pecking order, not... compassion," Logic spits. True, but take a look at the Freedom Writers. A group of kids who, "hated school, hated [their] teacher, and hated each other. Whether it was official or not, [they] all knew that [they] had been written off." Look at them now, successful adults in society, who would not have graduated without the compassion of one another.
The problem, is that the classroom is looked at from the wrong point of view. Half the time, it seems like the sole purpose of a course is just to get everyone to pass, don't mind the fact that the pupils may or may not actually be retaining the information. Not to mention, not everyone learns the same. Not everyone is a Book Smart Betty, and there are plenty of kids who fall between the cracks. The classroom needs to be an environment that kids like being in. No, that doesn't mean teachers need to hand out snickers bars like food stamps, it simply means that learning needs to be interactive. Students' opinions need to be heard (and trust me, when you get them talking, they'll stay engaged), and most importantly, kids can't be afraid to ask questions. The worst teachers are the ones who make their students feel inferior or dumb, whether it be intentional or not. Classes where kids bond and help each other out (yes, that means that Book Smart Betty can get off her high horse for 2.5 seconds and maybe explain a concept in layman's terms), are the ones where there's an incentive to do well. To not give up.
The classroom needs to be thought of as a team. The best teams are the ones that there for each other whether they like each other or not, and display some sort of compassion for one another. That's not say that there won't be failures, that there won't be kids that don't graduate, because there will be. But right now the biggest flaw in the system is the fact that we are letting kids fall between the cracks. "YOU CAN'T MAKE AN APATHETIC STUDENT CARE!" yelps the flustered voice of reason. Oh, but you can at least try, and while all efforts shouldn't be wasted on one bad seed, chances are, you'll pull a few diamonds out of the rough in the meantime.
"Knowledge without education is simply information." A once-homeless man told me that, and he had some of the most enlightening ideas on education. What does it mean? That to learn effectively students must be engaged, interactive, and involved. Otherwise, that knowledge will be diluted into just another statistic. Knowledge needs to be made applicable to real life, it needs to be relevant, or otherwise it will be dismissed. Education is a broad term, and the dictionary defines it as: the theory or practice of teaching. Teaching is not preaching, my friends. Teaching is compassion, and namely, compassion, will lead to a quality edification.
Are you a high school student who wants to sound off to the HuffPost community and win a chance to blog with a celebrity, politician or activist? Find out how on our contest page or read other essays by high school students.
This contest is brought to you by Waiting For "Superman".
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