School is cool
Aug. 27, 2012
by Jenni Sebora

It pays to go to school and stay in school – literally.

The median earnings of a full-time, year-round worker with an advanced degree (beyond a bachelor’s degree) in 2002 was $74,000. A worker with a bachelor’s degree earned a median salary of $56,000. A full-time worker’s earnings with a high school diploma was $33,000. Those workers with less than a high school diploma had median earnings of $25,000. (Source: Educational Attainment in the US, 2009).

The US Census Bureau tells us that 41 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 2010. Fifty-six percent were women, including undergraduate and graduate. The number of women outnumbers men in college.

I think the push early in the elementary years that math and science are not just for males has made an impact on that number. Science fairs, critical thinking exercises, enrichment activities, math bowls, knowledge bowls, and problem-solving activities have provided avenues for learners – both female and male – to explore, expand, and nurture their interests, as well as their skills.

Although research shows that, for the majority of learners, direct instruction is the most effective teaching method to take in knowledge, versus exploratory learning (at least for the initial learning of the skill), using more exploratory methods along with direct instruction is important. For some learners, who catch on quickly, allowing them to use other methods of learning where they can explore and investigate is critical.

That is why a teacher in the classroom is the most valuable resource in a school, beyond technology and textbooks. Teachers are in charge of trying to meet the needs of all the students, and providing varied activities to meet the learning styles of all of the students. This takes a lot of time and effort.

Teachers also set up the learning environment for children, as well as the classroom setting and atmosphere. Students need to feel that they belong in that classroom. They need to feel safe and secure – physically and emotionally. Without that type of environment, students will not rise to the challenge of meeting their potential, or of taking risks.

As a teacher, I am cognizant of this. I never belittle my students nor disrespect them. I always tell my students we are “in this together.” I set the stage that I am there to teach them; not only information and skills, but also identifying and focusing on their assets and strengths and to build upon those.

I am teaching – I like to call it mentoring – young adults with disabilities who are on their road to adult living and independence. Their travels and roads may take different routes for each of them, but that does not make any one of their travels and plans any less difficult.

It is important that all children – younger and older – learn to advocate for themselves and their needs.

The young adults I work with are taught that they should not be embarrassed by their disability, but accept and embrace who they are, and build upon their skills. They learn to advocate for their needs, know their limitations, and build upon their strengths.

This is true for everyone and should be instilled in all of our children.

Everyone has something to share with the world, and we need to help our children discover what positive skill makes them ignite.

As parents, we need to support our teachers. If there are concerns, they should be shared, instead of allowing those concerns to fester. Communication is important.

As school is about to begin across the spectrum of age, abilities, and interests, let us encourage and support students’ learning process.

Last year, I received a very heartfelt thank you from a parent whose daughter was graduating from high school. Her words expressed appreciation for helping her daughter find her way in becoming a woman.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and you were a major part of her village,” were the words she ended her thank you with.

I believe that we are all here as part of a village to raise and grow our children.

We want our children to stay in school, enjoy learning, embrace their skills and interests, and take flight.

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