Something you don't know about me is that I teach a GED course part-time. Not exactly a position this former art teacher was looking for but something I sort of fell into. Our family had just moved to the area about 2 1/2 years ago. My boys had just turned 3 and I felt an itch to get back to teaching art. So I rounded up every school address in the area and sent out resumes. For good measure I even sent a resume to the local community college thinking maybe they would need a part time art instructor to teach a class or two. Luckily they got back with me about a position....teaching a GED class. What?
Well I agreed to meet for an interview and as the gentleman who was interviewing me was going over class materials and requirements it dawned on me that I wasn't being interviewed. He was merely explaining to me what would be expected of me to teach the class. I don't think he ever asked me one "interview" question.
Finally I felt the need to speak out, "I am an art teacher. You know that, right? I've never taught math or English."
His reply? "You made it through college didn't you?" Of course I had, and of course he knew that too.
So there I was. College educated and willing and breathing. And as far as I could gather those were the only requirements to teach a GED class. So I am a GED instructor and have been for about two years. Six months a year, two nights a week, two and half hours a night. Some days I absolutely hate it and other times it becomes a joy to teach someone who truly wants to learn. But boy have I learned a thing or two. Not just about math and English but about our culture and society and the mess it seems to be getting itself into.
Now I had a completely different draft for this section of the post and it was blooming into a big long rant on the failure of our society and the lack of ambition and work ethic among Americans....but I deleted it. I don't want to go there.
However, I do want to encourage any of you who are the parents or grandparents of a high school student or just know a high school student who may be contemplating dropping out of school to do all you can to get them through high school. I have a masters and bachelors degree in Art and I have always loved school. Embarrassingly, I admit, I never gave much thought to those who have dropped out of school until I started teaching this class.
I never realized just how difficult it was to get any job without a diploma. The thought of a high school dropout, a 18 year old kid came to mind. I had never thought about those who had dropped out twenty years ago and what they were doing now. In the words of one of my 50 year old students, "Kids who drop out of school have a rude awakening for them. You can't get a job anywhere without a diploma. It wasn't like that when I was a kid. It will get to a point when you have to have a college degree to get a job!"
Times they are a changing. Unfortunately it seems in education that these changing times are putting more responsibility on our children. Instead of half day kindergarten now it is full day. Teachers are expected to teach more content in less amount of time than ever before. Students are expected to start kindergarten already knowing their numbers, ABC's and colors. I didn't know ANYTHING when I started kindergarten!! No wonder our kids are stressed out by school and there is a "dropout crisis".
I don't think I have to stress the importance of education. But, I have never met one kid thinking of quitting school who had second thoughts at the time and I have never met one person who had quit school who didn't regret it. There are a vast number of reasons people have dropped out of school. Home life problems, bullies, loss of interest.
If you know of anyone thinking of quitting school, please, push, pull, drag them kicking and screaming to get that diploma. They will thank you later. As I have found in my GED class, sometimes those kids just need someone they can turn to for help. Someone to get on them to turn in homework. Someone who really cares about them and their future. Maybe it is your child or your child's friend or your neighbor. You can be the one to get them through.
Some of my readers have young children and you may think, "Why should I worry about this now?" If you have small children it is important to set a precedent early in their education of the importance of attendance, of turning in homework, of finishing what they start even if it isn't fun. Because these are the issues they will have to face in the teenage years but much more intensely. If your child (or your child's friends, or neighbor kids, etc.) knows you are there to help and will encourage no matter what there will be more chance they won't drop out. I know this is cliche, but our children are our future. Let's take care of it.