TODAY I TEACH 5TH GRADE

[You may assume that I am preoccupied with education recently, but this post was actually written, for the most part, last year. Then I read some material and launched into a tiny tirade on the teaching profession in general, last month. Rather than just stopping, [no fun in that] this is something i think has merit and so I’m just laying it out…..maybe there is an educational fairy looking for a project?]

Let’s pretend. Let’s pretend, that I am on sabbatical from being a 70 year old woman with no formal education beyond grade 12 and that I am not interested for the moment in anything approaching my own expertise [which would still be questionable] and so this is the first day of class for 22 students assigned to my 5th grade classroom.

My classroom is a typical room with 26 student desks scattered haphazardly about, one teachers desk, a single 4 drawer file cabinet, a stack of boxes in a back corner [our inventory] and the requisite chalk boards [be lenient here, it’s been a longgg time since I’ve set foot in a classroom] and a working time clock.

As the students enter, I ask them to sit anywhere they like and as soon as all are seated I begin.

“Good Morning, all of you were promoted to 5th grade. Today you are all equal and today we are going to begin learning about life as adults, spending our day as they spend theirs.  The first thing that follows education is work and this year marks a test run to really educate you regarding that adult world. This year of school is going to be your work. I am passing out job applications to each of you. They are pretty close to the real deal and in order to begin our work, we need to be hired for positions and responsibilities within our company. Job applications are handed to HR personnel at a company. HR stands for Human Resources, a department most businesses have at their company. There are many more departments and we are going to have these departments shown on the board: HR, Research, Development, Communications, Inventory and Accounting. As the teacher, my position in our company will be CEO/OSHA and Legal Affairs. Also on the board are the jobs each department is responsible for. HR will be responsible for hiring, promotions and payroll. Research will help determine classroom goals for different subjects. Development will design test questions, building blocks and projects. Communications will build discussions, topics, problem solving and interactions for classroom studies. Inventory will monitor supplies, order and design, handle room displays and coordinate with other department needs. Accounting will track promotions, grades, banking and benefits. All departments will work together and with the CEO, following OSHA and legal affairs guidelines.

You will punch a time clock each day, in and out of work. You will arrange the classroom according to departments that you hired into and you can work for promotions to other departments, pay raises, vacations, special assignments……lots of things that working adults do every day they are on someone’s payroll.  If our company is successful, some of you might become independent of the company and work as consultants or develop new and useful departments for our company. This job, this company is cutting edge and a test to show how adult life works and to give you a sense of how your parents, teachers, doctors, plumbers, janitors etc live the majority of their lives.

In many respects we are going to spend the year learning together. Adults do NOT bully, backstab, intimidate or diminish the work of their peers. [pause]  In fact, adults do all those things, but we are going to try especially hard this year to NOT be those kind of adults. We are going to learn about life together. Life is hard, even together. Life, as you know, is NOT all play, all fun, all happy, all games. Life is sometimes dull, monotonous, boring, very hard, unfair and lonely.

One thing to remember about our company during our school year….if you are bored, lonely, having a hard time, bullied or sad….we are ALL going to stop right then and together figure out a solution. If a company has good people, that is how they are successful. They stop and together figure out a solution.

Go home today and ask your parents to help with filling out your job application. Tomorrow will be job interviews – you must interview with the company to be hired and find the right position for you AND you must come to school dressed for an interview. Ask your parents to help with choosing clothes for your interview and ask for their reasons for the choices you make together. Everyone who is interviewed must come with a pen and notebook – remember this. If you don’t come prepared to take notes or with questions you might have already written down to ask, how can you remember when you are a bit nervous about your interview. I have a lady and a gentleman who actually work in HR at their companies coming to our class tomorrow do to our interviewing. This is like the real adult word. Welcome”

I would like to see the kids, by department, help to build the learning curve of the class. Learn how to make a test, take a test and determine outcomes. I would like them to create the classroom, it’s arrangement, it’s assets, it’s liabilities and change things as needed. I would like them to interact between departments [staff meetings?] develop programs, field trips, projects to reflect the classroom subjects. I would like them to interview working members of the public about their jobs, their successes and failures and how they measure job fulfillment. I would have them meet with other classes, teachers, PTA, school boards to interact about their progress and promote ideas. I want to instill in them the value of a work dollar- the hours involved to earn something they might take for granted. How much does your parent have to work to pay for groceries/a bike/ a vacation/a house? Exactly what is interest on a loan, how do you get a loan, why do you get a loan and how do you know if they are right for you. What does retirement mean and how do you prepare?

How are grades earned and can you change that through work? Who cares? Why should they care? What happens if you don’t work for someone; you work alone? What happens if you go to college and have they thought of how to pay. Can they have two jobs? School and a job? Where does the fun come in and how can a job be the fun?

Grades could be equated to pay and the accounting department could monitor banking. Without announcing private grades, grades could be converted to show the growth of the company. Kids could be taught to look for their strengths and weaknesses, not in a bad way, but in a measurable way.

Kids could learn their subjects in the context of a running company. I think that lots of educators are NOT familiar with the average working environment. I think that parents do not educate their kids about adult life, cause, hey- they want them to be kids, but I think, kids would do better and be more solicitous if they were given adult scenarios to try on before life is for real.  I also think this strategy could play into a better behaved, better interested student between 6th and 12th grades. I would hope they might think differently about their obligation to education and how their future is dependent on their input. It is time we put education into a realistic picture. Students need to realize the game of education is  NOT as baby sitters, it’s not about finding a job for  the education personnel. Education is actually ALL about them. It is about the real working world and where they are headed. I would like it to be a wake-up call that could promote better intentions in the years 6th thru 12th.  We aren’t teaching if our kids aren’t thinking through the outcomes of their input. It is time they really understood who will get the benefit.

 

Somewhere there is a better educated teacher who could write a curriculum on this premise, a person who might see the value in testing this theory. The need is there to encourage kids to engage in their own education. The need is there to reach them with a real world glimpse of ‘work’, in hopes that some will find comfort in what to expect and some will find the impetus to try another approach to adult life. Some might forego college and jump into a blue-collar field and others might decide to be teachers of real life?

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