Most students are sitting in their chairs bored to tears, and harboring resentment. Why? Mostly because schools and teachers haven’t bothered to tell them WHY they should be sitting there. In other words, schools haven’t answered the simple question: What’s In It For ME?
Frankly, most adults would be seething mad if their bosses told them to sit in chairs and take part in all-day seminars — day after day after day– with no indication of how these seminars related to their jobs, or what they could expect to gain at the end of the seminar. Is it any wonder that students feel the same way?
How does that history class, or sociology class, or math class fit into what is important to that particular student? Until that question is answered, the class will seem like punishment. Answer that question though, and suddenly the class is interesting, relevant, and a springboard to additional learning. Unfortunately, that question is probably going to be answered differently for every student, and a nebulous answer just won’t do. If a teacher is not willing or able to take the time, then the student will have to take some initiative in finding out the relationship between what they’re interested in and the subject matter of the class.
Here are some examples:
A student loves taking pictures. It’s fairly easy to see that refraction and light waves might suddenly seem relevant in a physics class. Math becomes relevant in calculating exposures and f-stops, and the history of photography might complement the history of the United States. What’s the subject matter of the photos? Friends? Maybe this leads to a study of psychology and what is revealed by the pictures.
Another student loves music. The mathematical relationship of musical notes becomes interesting. Different historical periods become reflective of different sounds and instruments, and suddenly history becomes alive.
Still another student has a passion for swimming. The physics of wave forms in water become very relevant. The physiology of frogs or water beetles in biology class is now important.
Every subject has connections with almost every other other subject. Find those connections — which lead to still other connections — and students can see the relevance of their learning. It might take a little digging to find those connections, but they are there.
At the very least, students should know that they are being well paid for sitting in those chairs.
At the 2000 census, high school dropouts averaged an annual wage of $23,400, or about $936,000 in a 40-year worklife.
Finishing high school bumped this up to about $30,400 average, or about $1.2 million in a lifetime. If a student knew that they probably were being paid more than $200,000 just for finishing the last year or two of high school, perhaps they would be less likely to drop out.
Spending another four years in college increased the average income to $52,200, or about $2.1 in a lifetime. That’s almost a million dollars more for four years of studying, essentially being paid almost $250,000 per year as a student. This is, of course, not even counting the additional career opportunities that are created. (Source: www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf)
Something to think about, isn’t it?