Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Scheduling Classes for Next Year? It’s Time Your Students Got Plowed

By Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

Like most dedicated school counselors, I have another job that pays for the privilege of being dedicated to my counseling job.  I teach American government at a local community college to a group of what we counselors would call “reluctant clients”, since the class is required to get any college degree.

I keep this in mind when I first address the class.  “I realize that if this class wasn’t required, you would be at home in bed right now, and I would be standing on the freeway holding a sign saying ‘I will teach you about the Electoral College for food.’”

This brings chuckles from a few students (who are given As for the semester right then and there), so I quickly add “I know this class may not be your first choice.  But the college requires you to take this class because our country needs you to engage in the job you will have for most of the rest of your life—active participant in the governance of the United States of America.”

This month, thousands of counselors are working with reluctant clients in the annual rite known as Course Scheduling.  We pull them out of class and try to create a slate of courses for next year that will encourage them to dream, embrace their roles in the world, and leave high school in four years with an aptitude and appreciation for what’s next.

Trouble is, it’s too easy for us—and them—to forget that.  There are thirty-five students in that classroom, and each one has to have most of a schedule done in the next 45 minutes.  In that situation, it’s easy enough to think we don’t have time to inspire, or that they don’t want to be inspired.  After all, you’re pulling them out of one required class to schedule them in a bunch of other required classes—where’s the teachable moment?

Right here, right now.

“Hey Jenny, how are you?  It just seems like yesterday you came here with your short hair and beautiful bangs (note—you need to flip through old yearbooks before scheduling starts).  I liked that look, but you look even nicer with your hair grown out like this

“Can I see the scheduling sheet that was sent home?  Great—I see you filled out a few choices.  Of course, you’ll take World Literature as a junior, so you’ll read some Charles Dickens.  Did you know he ran back into a train car that was teetering on a cliff just to rescue part of his manuscript for A Christmas Carol?

“Your next math is Geometry—how great!  You know, Madonna once publicly told her Geometry teacher he was wrong, and that she never used Geometry after high school.  But I bet the people who built the platform for the Super Bowl halftime show used geometry when they figured out how to make a portable electronic dance floor that had to be set up and taken down in 30 minutes.”

It’s unlikely any student will respond to these insightful quips by standing up in the middle of class and saying “Wow!  Now I see why these classes are required, and they all have new meaning to me! Thank you so much!”  Still, a counselor’s task is to plant the seeds that nudge students to see the possible, and the tiller of class scheduling creates a very special, dedicated planting season.  Besides, corn doesn’t bloom the day after it’s planted.

And while you’re planting, don’t forget—“Jenny, do you know the reason you take American Government is because our country needs you—“

1 comment:

  1. This is brilliant! Thank you for putting some humor into what tends to be a very stressful time of year.