Students Sound Off: Senior Deirdre Scanlon Says Before Students Can Graduate, They Have To Care
"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 seventh post in the series, high school senior Deirdre Scanlon answers the question:
If you were given the chance, how would you help kids at your school graduate?
There are essentially two types of classes in high school. You have the hard class with lots of work that bores you but you still learn something in it... sometimes. And you have the fun class that everyone wants, but no one seems to learn anything in.
There are essentially two types of students in high school. Those who will do anything to learn because they feel they have to and those who want to learn, but aren't motivated to take on the hard class.
Rarely do the two types of classes mix, so rarely do you find someone who wants to learn who will also do anything they can in order to do so.
Rewind to elementary school. You're ten years old and have just been assigned a project on the regions of Virginia. You get to create a brochure that outlines what happens in each region and, even better, you get to draw a map of Virginia and color each section differently.
Fast-forward to high school. You're 16 years old and have just been assigned a project on the regions of Virginia. You have to write a ten page paper comparing and contrasting the five regions. One inch margins, twelve point font, MLA citations.
There are two things wrong with this picture.
First, in high school you're expected to have grown up, matured, and be able to write lengthy papers. While this is fine and I completely understand the need for progress, there is value to learning in a fun way -- like creating a brochure. By presenting a project that no one is interested in -- the groans are audible down the hallway -- no one will be motivated to do it. This leads to slacking, which leads to a student learning nothing from the information they've gathered (and carefully used noodletools to cite).
Second, changing the format in which the project is presented is entirely useless if no one is interested in doing the project since they learned the same thing in fourth grade! We should be learning new information instead of repeating the same thing over and over again. All this repetition does is instill a hatred in all high school students for learning. Once this hatred occurs, it's very hard to reverse it.
But most importantly, high schools need a change to occur in both these aspects. We need to learn new things in interesting ways or else we won't learn anything at all.
I believe that people inherently want to learn but are so often faced with the choice of being bored and learning or having fun and not learning that they begin to associate learning with being bored. You need to have classes that are both fun and educational in order to instill a love of learning again. There shouldn't be a choice between hard and easy or boring and fun; there should just be classes for learning.
If you find a way to interest students in what they're learning about then you'll improve graduation rates. If you find a way to make them care, then they will learn and they will prosper.
If given the chance to help kids at my school graduate, I would consult with teachers about what helps students learn. I feel like most teachers get their techniques and tricks for teaching from books written by adults, from adult friends, from adult teachers, but never from students. We know what we're interested in and we know how we'll learn. Rarely do students get to input their ideas on what will help them learn. By opening up that type of discussion and by changing what we learn and how we learn it, students will become more engaged and learn more. By being more engaged, the need to drop out due to boredom or lack of understanding diminishes significantly. A simple suggestion box and an open-minded teacher would go to great lengths to ensure learning -- the idea on which schools are founded.
There are essentially two types of people in the world. The ones who acknowledge a problem and work to solve it and the ones who ignore it and hope it gets better. Which one are you?
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".