Read this article in my local paper recently about how parents are overscheduling their kids' lives. What really caught my attention was the headline (Experts Say It's OK for kids to be Bored) which I put on the refridgerator for my 10-year old son and his friends to see, and this quote from a parent: "So much depends on the child, what they want and what they need," she said. Her daughter, Jacqueline, 12, is scheduled to be tutored five mornings a week during the summer but reserves the afternoons for fun. "I want her to get a jump-start on school. I think a lot of parents want that for their kids, especially in such an academically competitive area like this."
She's right. The area I live in and teach in are academically competitive. I certainly see this as a classroom teacher and adviser for the school newspaper. Most of the kids who join the paper do so for their college resume not because of any real interest in journalism. Don't get me wrong, most of these kids are very committed, as they are to everything. They have schedules crammed with AP courses, they do community service, many are in the band or plays, and are members of other clubs or sports. They do this all to serve the goal of getting into one of the colleges of their dreams. And I guess this starts with things like being tutored in the summer when you're 12.
I just wonder what we're doing to our kids. Yes, they are developing tremendous work ethics, and are being challenged in some ways, but some of them have become so competitive that they won't do anything if it doesn't serve their goal. They weigh whether an assignment is worth their time by how it will effect their grade. And of course if credit isn't being given they don't put any real effort into it, which brings me back to the quote. Yes, as parents and teachers, we should be concerned about "what they want and what they need." But what is that? Is it giving them the tools so that they can get into that college of their dreams? Is that all it's really about? Because from my experience, and from the responses I've received from kids, that's the way they view most of what they do in high school. It's an obstacle course they must navigate to get to the real race. And what about the majority of high school students who are not as academically competitve? How do we motivate and better involve them? How do we make school more relevant to them? This has become a major theme here lately and one that will continue to be explored. Any ideas or experiences would be greatly appreicated.