Students Often Want To Be Challenged In the Classroom

Around this time of the year, every public school student’s thoughts turn to one thing: Summer Vacation.  It is understandable.  After month upon month of construction paper and Calculus, the coursework may begin to seem like a dull grind.

However, I am concerned when I hear the same complaint at the outset of the school year.  If, after only a few days or few weeks, a student is turned off to what is being offered in the classroom, it does not foreshadow success.  Indeed, it unfortunately seems to be the case that too many children and young adults are already looking forward to the summer before the first leaf has turned in the fall.

The reasons can be many: social pressures, loneliness, undiagnosed learning disabilities, bullying, inappropriate academic placements—the list is as varied as the students we send off to school each year.  Nonetheless, it seems likely that the main contributing factor is plain and simple boredom.  Please understand that I am not suggesting learning is boring.  Far from it.  Education is a dynamic process that should challenge and enlighten our students.

However, what if the material taught in your child’s school is neither challenging nor enlightening?

Most students are astute enough to know when they are being fed cookbook curriculum, and they are more than clever enough to notice that the teacher is as uninspired by the rote material they are being compelled to teach as the young people in their classes.  Students may dislike the hard work that comes with challenging content material; I can, however, guarantee they hate being forced to be bored.  Do you ever wonder why some students “act up”, particularly in the lowest level classes?  Perhaps it is sometimes less that they are troublesome and more that they need some stimulation to counteract the low quality of what sometimes passes for education in our public schools these days.

If you wonder why more and more parents are home schooling, you need only look to a gentleman I met recently who has home-schooled all four of his children.  By the time they were fifteen, they had all “finished” high school and were beginning work on college level work for credit.  He would be the first to admit that his offspring were not super-geniuses by any measure.  He attributed their successes to trusting them to step up to the challenge of more difficult material and letting his children discover they were capable of far more than they ever imagined possible.

The vast majority of children and young people are capable of working at a far higher academic level than they are at present.  However, if they are taught the lesson by our system of education (and sadly by some of their parents and not a few in our society) that “good enough” is more than enough and hard work is for fools, it should not be a surprise that so many students poke along aimlessly and find their joy somewhere other than the classroom.  School should not be something that our young are forced to endure; it should be a place where they can count on being pushed to excel, learn about talents they never suspected were within them, and become confident young adults who are certain of their capabilities and know how to rise to meet the next challenge set before them.

I encourage all parents to ask their children if the material they have learned during this school year is too easy or too hard.  I believe you might be surprised by the answers

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