I was told by a high school counselor not too long ago that if a student couldn’t function in a typical high school setting, he would not be able to function in life. Her take on it was that a typical high school is a true population sampling of what types of people ‘real life’ contains.
Now I could see her point, but I totally disagree with her parallel. I see high school as a springboard to greater things. I see high school as a student’s chance to try his hand at a little bit of everything and either succeed, or fail, and continue to learn either way, in a safe environment, or at least a supposedly safe environment.
And there are still those students who need a little bit more time to learn how to function in such a huge social and academic setting. And this doesn’t mean that they are ‘failures’ it only means that they need a little bit more time to figure things out, and possibly a little more TLC from a teacher or adviser who has a little bit more time to spend with them than a regular high school teacher does.
I have always viewed education as a beginning to more beginnings, not an end to a means. Education, when acquired properly, can change lives.
Unfortunately with the way some states are viewing education, it has become a means to an end, a way to stifle young minds and place them in a state-ordained box, taking the actual learning out of education.
Thankfully, there are several options students have other than just a typical high school environment.
Online schooling has increased considerably over the years. Some student choose this method of school if they need to work to help support a family, if they need just a little bit of extra one-on-one time with a teacher or if they just can’t seem to fight the negative influences that seem to find them in a typical high school setting. Accredited online high school allows students to finish high school, and almost always allows them to graduate with a diploma. Online programs are available through individual states and some school districts include an online component that is linked to the student’s home high school.
Private schools are also available. The one setback with private schools though is the cost. Private schools usually provide students with smaller class sizes and more individualized learning styles. Some states even provide families with vouchers that will pay for state-accredited private schools, especially if there is a special needs child involved.
Charter schools and magnet schools are also available. These schools have been set up by individuals who want to break away from the public school barriers and are based on an application process. They are still state accredited, but do demonstrate some differences from a regular public school, although these difference vary from school to school.
Alternative education is also available through most school districts. This type of school allows students to still attend high school in a typical setting, while maintaining a bit more structure and smaller class sizes. Alternative schools are overall usually smaller in size than a regular high school and not all alternative schools bear the stigma of students being court-ordered to attend them because of behavior or truancy issues from a typical high school. Some alternative education schools provide at-risk students with extra help in a typical school setting.
Homeschooling has also increased its numbers through the years. Homeschooling is the parent’s responsibility. Most states (except Oklahoma) require homeschooled students to register as such through their regular school district. Most states also require homeschooled students to follow a state-appointed curriculum and state-appointed testing, but still allow for the parents to supplement with other materials including religious-based curricula. Homeschooling allows families the flexibility of schooling as needed throughout the day, and also allows the student to spend as much time as is necessary learning material. Most students can move through material at their own pace, which can lead to completing high school requirements ahead of schedule. Most states also have family ran co-ops which allow for students to attend field trips, socialize and learn in small, monitored groups. Homeschooling requires much discipline and is not for everyone.
Un-schooling has also gained popularity. In this day and age of incredible testing requirements in high school courses, some parents have elected to ‘un-school’ or allow their child the opportunity to enjoy a more relaxed learning environment. Un-schooling is not as structured as homeschooling, but is still an effective way for students to learn, because it is student-driven, almost in a Montessori form. It allows the student to learn to think on a higher level, process information in an independent way and focus more on what the child is truly interested in.
Students need to learn in the best environment possible. Teachers, parents and students need to embrace this. No two students are exactly alike, and no two students will learn the same material in the same way. Students need to be placed in the learning environment that best suits them; one that will enable them to obtain their definition of success.