Written by guest blogger Rachel Davis
This year I became the proud step-mom of a child entering middle school. The second one, actually, because the first had a different set of problems at the time. So, my child… Bright, energetic, bubbly, happy kid who received straight A’s last year has totally fallen into a hole this year. Somehow she managed to fail both language arts, and, received an “F” in Chorus, as well. How do you get an “F” in a class that doesn’t require any coursework? Neither of my daughters were socially promoted, but what happens to kids as they cross the threshold into middle school/junior high? This is a question without an easy answer.
I teach high school, both a foreign language, which covers ninth through twelfth grades, and, freshman level Earth Science. Each semester that I get a new batch of students, I am amazed at how much they just don’t know -as in know how to read, how to think, and how to communicate- I can deal with the out of control hormones, the insolence, and the proverbial chip on the shoulder, but what do you do with a fourteen year old who literally can’t read?
Why were students who cannot comprehend words like meaning or describe promoted to ninth grade? For those who can actually call words, why are they not able to decipher directions and otherwise grasp what a question is asking for, or, take the words that they have just determined the meaning of for a previous assignment, and, apply those definitions to the same words when they encounter them again in future assignments?
What is being taught at the middle school level? From what I’ve seen, not very much. Students seem to be shuffled upwards through the system with no regard as to whether they have actually learned anything. But what does this kind of social promotion do for a student when they are looked upon with pity by their peers and/or perceived as stupid? What does social promotion do for the classroom when more advanced students aren’t being taught at the level that challenges them because they are slowed down by the human speed bumps who shouldn’t have even been advanced to their level in the first place?
So much is considered for the elementary levels when the federal government talks about helping out schools, and, so much pressure is put on the high school levels with legislation such as No Child Left Behind. But what isn’t studied, or doesn’t have money poured into it are the three years between elementary and high school when we lose our students completely because we allow their emotions to rule everything from proper behavior to what they eat to the manner in which they believe they should be taught.
I will close by sharing with you the result of allowing a former middle school student’s emotions to dictate her life. I have a second step-daughter who is a junior in high school this year. Her father, my husband, experienced her behind the wheel the first time she tried to take out a mailbox. She didn’t recover from the trauma of ripping off my side view mirror, and, instead allowed her emotions to get in the way, and, as a result, almost smashed into a truck parked further down the road. Since she has never learned how to control her emotions, she was not able to walk off the physiological changes (adrenaline surges) that occur when a scary situation happens.
Later that evening, I made her get behind the wheel again to drive us to the store to buy the parts to fix the mirror she damaged with the mailbox. On the way over, she almost killed us. Thank God for the adult who stopped in time, but what if it had been another teenager with similar issues?
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