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Students and Teachers

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Summer holidays are coming to an end. Soon we’ll hear the collective sigh of relief from all the parents who are running out of ideas to keep their kids entertained. It would be nice to finally be free of the kids for most of the day and to let their teachers have all the fun instead. Kids have their teeth cleaned, their immunizations updated, their hair styled, and have new clothes, along with school supplies, that have taken their parents to the edge of bankruptcy.

When it comes to students, there are only two kinds of students. Those that like to study, like to learn new things, and enjoy the whole experience of being in school. They do their homework on time and with diligence. They start their projects early and finish them well ahead of time. Above all, they have developed good study habits that will see them prosper in careers of their choice. Then there are kids like my kids. They are allergic to homework. They consider studying beneath them and spend as little time as possible learning anything new. They spend all of their time playing video games on their cell phones, tablets, computers, Xbox, Playstation, you name it, any kind of gizmo that the tech industry has been kind enough to shove down our throats, they have it, and they use it. Sometimes many of these devices simultaneously.

When it comes to teachers, there are two kinds as well. Those that know how to teach, enjoy teaching even though they rarely have a student worthy of their skills, and they spend time with the students to help them understand different concepts. They have the patience to explain, as often as necessary, how to solve problems, and how to comprehend difficult subjects. Then some teachers mostly end up teaching my kids. Most of them are new graduates, with hardly a year or two of experience. They chose to teach not out of passion, but because they couldn’t decide on anything else. Some end up teaching a subject different from their field of study, like a Biology graduate having to teach Physics. Their favorite tool is Google Chromebook with Google Docs and Google this and that. They think that the best way to teach students is to direct them to a website with a database of problems and let them figure things out for themselves. They expect students, those that don’t even know how to brush their teeth (yes, my kids), to work out complicated concepts like Pythagorean Theorem and Quadratic Equations on their own, using their minds, and using their intelligence, however little as it may be. Talk about being extremely optimistic!

I have to give credit to my kids, though. They have figured out very quickly that, on these websites, each wrong answer is immediately followed by the correct solution and if they repeat their exercises long enough, questions start repeating, and they let the website answer its own questions. They score very high on their homework assignments, almost always an A, unless the teacher has specified that all they need is 80% to pass, then as soon as they hit 80%, they stop. When it comes to exams and quizzes, though, they fail miserably. Why? Because the questions don’t repeat so they have no way to “hack” the answers. The worst part about these computer-based studies is that the teacher never knows where exactly is a student struggling. The student is nothing more than a mere statistic.

Well, the students have nothing to worry about, though. Our schools don’t like to fail any students, because it cuts into the funding that they receive from the State. Schools have to show a high success rate and teachers have devised many ingenious ways of making sure that the students pass. For example, giving a 50% score even if the student does not answer the question in the exam, or making the final exam super easy and worth 500 points, so that each and every student scores very high on the final and everyone miraculously passes the class with flying colors.

Another criterion that is used to determine the amount of funding for the school is attendance. A lot of students miss classes as a fashion statement. Our school district has come up with the idea of Saturday school, where students show up and all they have to do is to spend a few hours playing games or doing nothing in particular. They just have to be present for the roll call and that improves their attendance. Schools get proper funding and everyone lives happily ever after.

I remember my professor used to say that schools have so much knowledge because freshmen bring none with them and graduates take none away when they leave. I never really understood his point until I started working with my kids and saw for myself the state of disarray that our schools seem to be in.

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