Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Want to give a back to school message to students? Try this one

In the last week or so, many people have been looking at my post entitled “back to school message to high school student who hate high school.” Curiously, it is clear that most of these are principals and teachers who were preparing a “back to school message” for the first day of school for the students. My post is not useful for these speech givers since it is about why the subjects students are learning are out of date and irrelevant. Google just finds “back to school message” and offers them my post no matter what else they may actually asked.

That having been said, I propose here a back to school message that teachers and principals can give to returning students. One that actually is in tune with the reality of our times. Here it is:

Welcome back students. I know that most of you wish you were still on summer vacation and that very few of you are happy to be back attending classes (although you may be happy to be back to the social and athletic aspects of school.) But here you are and there is nothing any of you can do about it. The government requires that you sit here, bored or not.

That having been said, what you should you be thinking about now that you are back? Whether you want to think about it or not, there will be lots of tests. The testing companies have sold the government on the importance of testing, so this year there will be more tests than last year.

But you should not be particularly worried about these tests. Why not? Because they don’t matter. Oh, they matter to the teachers whose salaries may depend on them, and they matter to the principal whose job may depend on them, and they matter to the school boards who will close, open, repair, and otherwise obsess about which schools are doing better than which other schools. And they matter to parents who don’t understand what the testing is all about but who are sure they want their kids in the best schools (with the best average test scores) and, of course they want their kids to have the best test scores (so they can brag to others about it.) 

But test scores don’t really matter at all to you. Why not? Here is why:

  1. Nothing bad happens to you if you get bad scores. Oh people may say stuff to make you feel bad, but nothing bad will happen to you in any way.
  2. Something bad does happen if you obsess on getting good test scores. You will spend time memorizing stuff that will never matter to you and you will be good at test taking, but you will not get any better at learning, thinking, creativity, or having fun.
  3. No matter what, you will go to college. (If you want to.) There are 4000 colleges in the U.S. Most of them will take anyone who applies.
  4. You may not get into the special school that takes only kids who have great test scores, but think about what those schools are like: full of kids who study all day and do exactly what they are told to do in order to get ahead. That’s not who you want to hang out with.

So what should you do this year? Most of all have fun. Follow your passions whether those are in school subjects or things that have nothing to do with school. Make friends. Have a social life. Learn to communicate better. Learn to get along with people better. And, learn to think better. Challenge yourself with things that are difficult to do and try try again to accomplish them.

Oh, and stay off the phone. There isn’t much to be learned from staring at someone else’s party pictures.

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