Monday, February 06, 2006

Sad Tonight

My honors students posted their own versions of Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing," and their verses depressed me terribly. So many of them see the classroom as a place that numbs them, bores them, agitates them, deadens them...I think of Anne asking,"Who killed your love of learning?" I remember feeling stressed in high school, but I also loved my teachers and classes. I know I was just a dorky girl in a plaid skirt and knee socks, but I actually enjoyed figuring out problems in my physics book. I felt like I was accomplishing something and that school had a personal purpose.

My students are beautiful people with endless potential, but it seems to be deteriorating. I'm fairly confident that these kids loved elementary school, loved curling up with their parents at night to read, maybe even loved middle school. And now they tread to class as though in a funeral march. They live for the weekends and days off, and manage to push themselves through the day, driven by grades and parents and other shallow motivations. I feel guilty but angry at the same time; they see themselves victims and consequently neglect to take responsibility for themselves. Somewhere along the way, consciously or not, they traded their hearts and minds for A's. What a waste.

14 Comments:

Blogger Cara S. said...

Hey Kristin,

I've been reading your blog (not just the Whitman post, but others as well). When I read this post, I was expecting to seem some really awful Whitman comments. They weren't as depressing as I expected. Sure, there were the same old comments from the same old kids, but I would take it as a compliment that you've fostered an environment where kids feel safe enough to say what's on their minds.

Remember that 1) we probably felt the same way some of the time during our high school days, and 2) peer pressure is a powerful thing. Once one brave soul tests the waters with a "not-so-pc-comment," it's pretty easy for everyone else to do the same.

How do you think they would respond if you added a verse about teachers being tired of the "song and dance" that is necessary just to get kids to engaged?

6:33 AM  
Blogger MollyG said...

I think it's natural. Kids naturally love learning and taking things in. By the time people hit the teenage years, we're yearning for our independence. Due to that, we naturally detest being forced to stay in school simply because of parents or other expectations. We're at an age where we can think of better things to do with our time, or at least things that are more fun than taking history notes. Most of us do see some good in school because really, we could drop out if we wanted. But we don't. Most of us also just want to get where we're going sooner, so day after day of the same pointless stuff gets old. Also, young kids enjoy learning because it's all new to them. It's no longer new to us. We've already learned almost everything we're learning now. Maybe a bit more in depth, but ultimately the same. After ten years of learning the same thing, we just don't want to learn it again. Once we get out of college, maybe get a career, we'll be interested in learning again, but then we'll be able to choose what we want to learn.

2:54 PM  
Blogger shamitap said...

I'd have to agree with you, Ms. Kakos. As much as I hate saying that it's true, it's true! I really don't want it to be this way, but the main problem for me: TIME.

I'm so tired after thinking all day, staying up late to do homework the previous night, that I come home and relax, which ultimately takes up time later on to do homework, causing me to stay up late...and it goes on and on and on... I have so much stuff to do, that I sometimes just don't want to face it and I put it off. I also take tons of "mini-breaks" in between my homework, and that all adds up. Even when I say that "I'll just put this book down and rest for 5 minutes", my eyes don't open until an hour later!

Becuase of all of this, and the piling stress, I feel that not only me, but other students too feel the same way--that the piling homework and decreasing sleep all moves in an infinite cycle. I think this is why many people feel that they don't have "time" to learn, but rather just get the work done, becuase for them, Friday is the ultimate goal.

4:51 PM  
Blogger danak said...

I love highschool so much more than middle school! We're learning some of the same things, sure, but we're learning more in-depth versions and our teachers talk to us like we're adults now. Grades are always in the back of our minds, but I don't think that highschool is boring or a waste.

5:47 PM  
Blogger JordanK said...

Ms. Kakos I just wanted to encourage you because I don't hate school right now. (I actually have time to post, Hooray!) I am driven by grades and my parents but separately. The grades are for me, I too feel accomplished when I figure out my chemistry or algebra. My parents just want what is best for me and are always encouraging. There are some classes I really don't like but I know that this is not my whole life and I will get through them and should still continue to try in them. There are also some classes I love, like yours (and I am not just sucking up), where I learn and love it. School has given me so many opportunities to learn about myself and my world through classes and the people I have met. Even if I hate it sometimes the good always seems to weigh out the bad.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Ashley M said...

I agree with Shamita here. It isn't that I don't like school, but my biggest issue is finding enough hours in the day to get all my schoolwork done and to still have time to do something for myself. This has got to be one of my hardest years of school, and I really just want everything to click so that I get it, without spending hours staring at a Chemistry problem that makes absolutely no sense because we haven't learned that concept yet. It is just frustrating to me, and the only time I really have for me is on the weekend, so that is my main goal; just make it through this week, and then I can just hang out and do nothing. But, alot of times, that doesn't even get to happen because I have Speech tournaments. But Speech is something I love, so it isn't that bad.

Sorry if this seems like a rant, I guess that is what it turned into. But I feel much better now, just letting that out of my systyem made me a little less stressed out.

8:26 PM  
Blogger shamitap said...

I'll admit I feel kind of bad about what I just posted and before I copy and paste it onto our class blog I wanted to say that I am totally not targeting your class, because right now, as I told you earlier, it is currently toward the bottom of my stress list. Sorry if it sounded like I was!

8:50 PM  
Blogger Crosby said...

Although I am a huge proponent of the AHS college-style schedule, Shamita's description of her week (being tired all the time) reminds me of my AHS experience as a student. As a word of encouragement, I will say that I was more than ready for the rigor of college by the time that I got there. However, I will also say that I really looked at colleges that had the one-course-at-a-time schedule because it seemed like a good way to really delve into a subject and not feel scattered in 8 different directions every day.

I worry about students (and some of us teachers!!!) who seem to devote endless hours every day and night to school, and desperately hope to make it to the end of each week with our sanity. I am clearly not the person to look toward for a solution to all of this, but maybe other people have some ideas. (We may need to look overseas - I recently read that Americans tend to work more hours than people in almost every other nation.)

8:56 PM  
Blogger MollyG said...

Really, I don't think it comes down to too much work at all. Mainly time management. In most classes, the homework can be done either during class or in maybe 15 minutes after school. Using off hours correctly, free time intelligently and just not wasting time would make us all more rested. Really, the only reason I'm tired half the time is just because I don't want to do work constantly, I'll take a "break" from school and start homework around 9 or 10. If I really felt like sleeping, I could just work from 2:13 to when I get done and go to sleep. The last time I did that, I got a full 12 hours of sleep. The only time that this is not true is those occassional weeks when everything is due. Last week for example, I had three tests and a paper due, not to mention that I was staying at drama until 9 every night.

Plus, what no one seems to realize is that everything you're talking or complaining about, you brought it upon yourself. If you don't want massive amounts of homework, don't take pre AP chem, don't do after school activities, or simply don't do your homework. In the grand scheme of things, skipping one essay will not do much. If sleep and lack of stress is that impotant to you, don't take stressful classes. If not, simply realize that life is stressful, get over it.

9:08 PM  
Blogger jasonm said...

School is school. Its not some wonderful amusement park. Its like a job, you get up, you get it done. Only at this job, everyday is a performance evaluation(homework, tests) Somedays the job is fun or interesting, most days it just is. You deal with it. And then you move on. No point in trying to pretty it up with smilies and all that. People try real hard though. The truth is, school is like being lost in a mountain range, and graduation is the end of that range. You take a class, its a mountain or a large hill, and everytime you pass a class, you plant your passing grade flag atop that mountain, the end is coming into view. Soon, you are at the end of the mountain range. Only you realize that you've got to cross paradise (summer vacation) to get to the next mountain range (college) where the mountains are higher. But on the other side of this mountain range, you see something sweeter than paradise you crossed.

You see life.

8:55 PM  
Blogger DougW5 said...

I like mountains. Mountains are my life. Education, responsibility, never stops.

4:07 PM  
Blogger jasonm said...

The mountains are an allegory.

ALLEGORY!!!

5:29 PM  
Blogger DougW5 said...

Thanks, Jason, I sort of picked up on that.

6:34 PM  
Blogger shelbyf said...

Ms. Kakos~
There are definately weeks when I feel like I am drowning and wonder how all these adults can think that I can handle all of this. I mean for goodness sakes, I'm still a kid! This week for example, I am so stressed that at times it is all I can do to not start crying, which is wierd becuase I am not that type and usually handle stress pretty well. But lately I have just been totally exhausted both emotionally and physically. Plus, being sick is a total pain because now I feel totally behind and lost in many of my classes and I only missed a day and a half! I am stressed beyond belief and am having trouble finding the time and energy to get everything done. But then I realize that a) most of the stress I have brought upon myself, I signed up for the challenge because I like it, so I should stop complaining and just do it and b) when I get to college and the "real world" it is most likely going to be much worse so I should just get used to it and consider myself lucky to have had some practice. Plus I am learning some invaluable time management skills.
Even with these stressful weeks, I still enjoy coming to school. Your class in particular I honestly look forward to every day. We always have such amazing discussions and I can't tell you how much I have learned about the world and myself through your class. Also, like you said, I love most of my teachers and subjects. Chem for example is challenging, but extreamly interesting and rewarding, and I love going to that class as well. There are some courses that I absolutely hate and find completely worthless and some days I do find myself "just trying to get through", but that is an exception and for the most part I enjoy coming to school. Also, even though grades are constantly on my mind, I do really enjoy learning.
I think that sometimes we just get bogged down with the work and late nights and because we are mad about that, it takes over the happy feeling that we really do have.
So even though it may seem like it, I really don't hate school and find myself missing it in the summer. And don't get discouraged, for me at least, you have made me so much more interested in learning and you are what makes the class so amazing. I have learned so much just this semester and really look forward to that class everyday. Not only do you teach, but you help us grow and show us that you truly care about us. That is something that I haven't ever really had from a teacher and it is really nice!

8:51 PM  

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