Friday, March 07, 2008

Education becomes relevant

As I mentioned in the last post, Jose didn't like school and didn't see it as relevant to his life. I wish I could pinpoint why and figure out exactly what point he (and others) began feeling this way so we could know what to do and when. Jose is not the only one.

Alan and Juan are two other teenagers who feel the same way. Their two sisters are in college and doing well. Juan would be a senior this year but he quit school last year. Alan is a sophomore and is contemplating the same.

Alan and his sister stopped by the other day.

I began questioning Alan about school and got what I've come to expect from him...the "Awww,-Miss-Janet!-Do-we-have-to-talk-about-this-again??" look.

Knowing his feelings about school, I continued to ask questions...hoping to tap into something that could potentially inspire him.

"What do you like to do?"

"Art," he answered. "I love graffiti art."

After we established that he wasn't "tagging" anything, I remembered an email I had received about local and somewhat unknown inner city artists who would be displaying their work throughout Pleasant Grove. I passed the information along and began suggesting to Alan that he stay in school, then go to college for an art degree.

We talked about fine arts and graphic design (which is about the limit of my art degree knowledge). I suggested he look into the Art Institute and see what they offer. I wanted him to start thinking about possibilities of furthering his talent and his education within his realm of interest.

It always amazes me how much kids listen.

Just yesterday I was talking with his other sister (not the one who came with him to my house). As I asked about her brothers, she explained, "Miss Janet, ever since you mentioned to Alan that he could get an art degree in college, he's been looking into it!" She went on to tell me he really doesn't want to take all of the other classes (the "basics"), but she and her sister have been talking to him about getting those basics done so he can then go on and get the art degree he wants. She said he seems to be really receptive to it and continues to look into different options! She is just as excited about it as I am!

It seems to me that our government and our country has done such a good job of turning our inner city schools into testing centers so irrelevant to our world that kids can't see the connection of education to anything they really enjoy. Even if they can't see the direct connection, it seems to me that once they realize education can be a means to an end, they are much more willing to endure the "means" so they can get to their "end."

Until we can change the system, I think it's our job to have conversations with kids and teenagers and do what we can to connect them to their interests, help them see how important education is, and help them realize how education connects to their interests.
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