2013-06-20 / Telling It Like It Is

Telling It Like It Is

Some City Students Will Be Well Schooled In Boredom
By Dara Mormile

How would you like to be forced to stay at work an extra two hours every day in hopes that your performance improves? Some of you might have to endure this real world torture - but you know that your salary is on the line!

Since school's almost out, I thought it would be the perfect time to hash out the pros and cons of making our children endure a longer school day in hopes that their academics will improve. The pilot program, which calls for 2,000 middle school students at 20 city schools to spend two and a half extra hours in the classroom, aims to see if these children outperform other students.

The Department of Education is already assessing that scores could improve if students take on an extra workload. Really? Forcing them to stay in one building with no incentive is expected to work? It's not that I'm against getting more education to better one’s self, but we have to keep in mind that some children don't have the attention span for the boring information they're already required to learn. This isn't a statement to denigrate children - quite the opposite! If you think kids are too “wild” and “out of control,” I think it's because they're spending so many hours behind a desk being told not to move or talk. With the exception of physical education courses and lunch breaks in the school yard, kids aren't energized and pumped by too many things going on in school.

Children need to be stimulated with exciting forms of innovative learning, experiences and field work which demonstrates use of real-world skills. (And if you'd like my suggestions on what real-world teaching comprises of, check out my column from January 26th, 2012: “How About Teaching Students Real World Skills?”) I'm sure if they told children that they would be spending an extra couple of hours of school learning outside of the building – somewhere that uses real-world applications – that might get them motivated!

According to reports, the longer school day will serve sixth-graders who struggle with reading. Okay, I'll admit - I don't know how teachers could make this subject more dazzling. Other than a program where youngsters could possibly go on a trip and, say, read to senior citizens or younger children, they'll be stuck in a classroom – heads buried in papers and books, looking like drones.

Having covered various events and programs at local schools, it seems like it would be in students' best interest to engage in hands-on learning during the extra couple of hours they have to be there.

Some kids already can't wait to get out of school during the day - what will a couple of extra hours after 3 p.m. do for those who are failing? According to my sister, who attends the Lenox Academy Junior High School, some kids already wander the halls with bathroom passes because they want some relief from the classroom grind. What is it about school that makes kids want to celebrate when the bell rings? Is it the teachers? Their fellow classmates? Maybe we need to find out what will keep them from feeling like school dismissal is the “great escape.”

Too cool for school? I know from experience that school, in general, isn't for everyone. Admittedly, I enjoyed my college years most of all because I knew it would lead to a career and I was able to more thoroughly CHOOSE my classes. But I dreaded public school (dreaded being used lightly) and writing my “heading” every day, for every class, then diving into a project that I ultimately failed because I couldn't wait to get done with it. Yes, my niche was writing - but I excelled at writing stories, which is what I get paid to do today! How much of what your child is learning is shaping them as a person - and how much of their studies will be remembered when they're pursuing their career? Some kids are only in school to get through the system and move on with life. Who knows where their future will take them, if they'll wind up in college, a trade school or join the army!

What EXTRA learning are they engaging in? If they're only getting more of the same education with the same type of lessons they receive during the rest of the day, what good is this plan? Let's get REAL. Just because children do something for a longer amount of time under forced circumstances doesn't necessarily mean they're going to “get it through their heads.” How about making learning more effective DURING REGULAR school hours??? If you can't engage them during the eight hours they're there, what grand plan will entice them to do better with the educational tools you give them after 3 o'clock?

Why are the failing really failing? Some children have other issues which prevent them from processing information. Whether they have some type of attention deficit disorder, dyslexia or other mental disability, teachers AND PARENTS need to weed out students whose failures are less obvious. Are they not getting help with their studies at home - and if they have a learning disability, is it being recognized and addressed? Spending more time studying to succeed, when there's a bigger reason behind a child's lack of understanding information, simply isn't enough!

It doesn't matter what subject you're well schooled in – I give the Department of Education a big fat “F”

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