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XQ The Super School Project #ReThinkHighSchool
I am the mother of these two fantastic high schoolers. My son is 18 and is a senior this year. My daughter is 15 and is a sophomore.
I wish I could say that high school has been a breeze for them but it’s pretty far from the truth. My daughter is a kinetic learner, which unfortunately 10% of her teachers are kinetic. She also has a “unidentifiable” form of dyslexia and dyscalculia like her mother (me). Basically it doesn’t fit any chart or category. My son fares a little better because, like me, he is both visual and kinetic. He also has a partial photographic memory, which I also have. This type of memory has done both of us good. It helped me get through school when no one was willing to understand why I didn’t test well. In my son’s case, his photographic memory helps him test very well and retain information short term. He has had difficulties with pacing in classrooms. The levels of classes he takes varies from AP Honors to CP (College Prep).
Just looking at this snap shot of my family you can see the multitude of learning abilities. We all learn differently and at different paces. When I put my kids into kindergarten for the first time my biggest wish was that they had a better learning experience than I did. For the most part it has been an improvement. There is more awareness now but for the most part I see my daughter struggle with the same things I did.
We were discussing the other day about what would make the perfect classroom. What would make their high school experience more productive and prepare them for college? Here is our wish list for the PERFECT high school:
- More classes that are career focused. Right now there are limited classes offered for specific careers. Only basic introduction classes are offered.
- Get rid of text books. They are costly, restrictive, heavy and most can be found as eBooks that they could access on their school provided iPads. Some of the kids’ books are from 1997. That’s two years after I graduated from high school.
- Better nutrition at affordable prices. Kids need fuel for their brains. I understand that food prices have gone up, but the portions and quality do not match the prices. My son leaves now for lunch. I feel like that is a waste. He should be able to use his lunch time to relax or catch up on homework while eating lunch.
- Life skill classes. When I was in high school we had to take them. They have all but been cut out of schools. Home Ec and Industrial Arts were so important to my schooling. We learn how to budget, cook, sew and fix things. It was all imperative to our learning process. It created imaginative thinking and ingenuity.
- Re-evaluate teacher standards. My daughter is being taught an Honor level curriculum when she is at a CP level because her teacher admittedly just didn’t feel like adjusting it. How is that fair? We need more checks and balances regarding consistency in teaching, balanced curriculum and knowledge of the technology they are supposed to be teaching with.
- We need more teachers that encourage student participation, conversation and critical thinking. I know I have seen a huge difference in my kids when they have teachers like that. They learn faster, want to do well and their grades are better.
- More resource centers in school with peer tutoring – for example NHS students.
- More individualized learning strategies – kinetic, visual and auditory
- An open school setting. The kids need freedom in the classroom. We need to get rid of study halls – allow choices to create their own study groups during school time and not just force them in just another classroom.
The way things are now I think that the kids are just being taught how to test well. They aren’t being given the room to have the courage to make mistakes, the creativity to think outside the box and the audacity to try new ways of learning. Things aren’t the same as they were in the 90s when I went to school. Everyone has ideas now. You need to fight to be heard. Your boss won’t care if you tested well in your sophomore year- he will care more if you can stay on task and take initiative. That’s not something you can learn on a test.
XQ : The Super School Project is an open call to reimagine and design the next American high school. In towns and cities far and wide, teams will unite and take on this important work of our time: Rethinking and building schools that deeply prepare our students for the rigorous challenges of college, jobs, and life.