Kids go to school to learn and master different subject matter as well as develop relationships with their peers. They learn how to read, write, do arithmetic, and recently, many schools have added electives such as aerobics, cooking, and weight training. All of these have great value for kids as they move towards living life to the fullest. However, as I have talked with kids, I am seeing more and more of them become disengaged and apathetic about their school experience and education. The primary reason seems to be the inability to see the connection between what they are learning and their everyday life. A second reason is that some kids simply do not believe that their teachers genuinely “like” them.
Therefore, the question I have is this: What would it take to get kids personally engaged, passionate, and curious about their own education? I realize some of the simplest, unrealistic answers include shortening the school day, doing less homework, and giving them the reigns of the school and letting them run with it. However, it is my opinion that the core answer lies in using the lives kids live, as well as the challenges they regularly face as the lab for learning. Every teenager has struggles in their relationships at some level with parents, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, coaches, and teachers, as well as a desire to know how to make money to do the things they want. They dream about some form of family life and doing things they love. The symptoms for providing quality direction to kids about all of these areas go on in front of us daily. Why couldn’t we utilize these types of interests kids have and let them learn to write while they self explore? Why couldn’t we teach them about conflict, forgiveness, and cooperation as they learn about social studies and psychology?
The problem is we try to sell kids on an education that is outdated. Teachers have either lost their passion for teaching or are so exhausted they don’t have the energy because their class is so large or the red tape they have to muddle through becomes overwhelming. In many ways, our teenager’s apathy is a form of protest; this protest tells us change is needed! Until what we teach in school is presented and taught by someone that is passionate about the information AND the kids being taught, we are simply creating an illusion of change without the transformation needed. Our students are telling us through their protest what they need. Will we get the message before we lose a generation of kids?