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VOICES / A Forum for Community Issues | Youth Essay

Students Should Take Responsibility

April 17, 1999|CATHERINE NICKLEN | Catherine Nicklen attends Dodson Middle School in San Pedro

To improve education, we must improve student accountability. Too often, the blame is misplaced on the teacher or the school. I think students need to be held more accountable. In the olden times, teachers were less prepared and had very few materials but the kids did better overall. Why? The students had more respect for their teachers and did what they were told.

I also think parents should be held more accountable. Too many parents are working and not taking the time to read with their children. They blame the teachers and the schools without looking into their hearts. I read in the newspaper that some eighth-graders read at a fourth-grade level or below.

I am only 11, but I already feel responsible about what's happening in the schools. But instead of just waiting for somebody to do something, I decided to take some action. Last summer, I helped a third-grade teacher at a school in my neighborhood. Everything went fine the first day, but I noticed the teacher was too nice with the students. For example, when I corrected the student's multiplication homework, if they got more than six wrong, the teacher would tell me to put a happy face on their paper. This means she was rewarding most of them for a job not well done. So, in a way she was lying to them by not telling them the truth, which was that they were not doing well. She was afraid to tell her students that they had not taken responsibility for not learning the multiplication tables.

Nowadays teachers are pressured too much to make kids "feel good" instead of making kids do the work that makes them feel good.

By the third day, I noticed there were two separate reading groups that read different books. I would read with one group for a little while and go on to the next group. The books were very old. In fact, they were so old that they were already starting to decompose. I agree that our schools need to have more money to pay for better-quality books. But students still need to take care of the books properly and actually read them. I noticed many kids playing and talking instead of reading. It seems that they go to school to talk about clothes and shoes more than to learn.

Like the eighth-graders I mentioned earlier, these children had a very low reading level. Now, do you think these children will survive what awaits for them in their lives to come? As my teacher said one day, "You'd better start practicing how to flip hamburgers if you do not care about where you are going to end up."

The focus should be put back onto the kids. They need to know that they are most responsible for how they will turn out to be when they are older.

The Board of Education should provide reading and math contests and reward kids who take on the responsibility to learn. They could sponsor campaign ads on TV and on the radio telling about new contests. Pizza chains could sponsor programs where kids get free pizza if they take on responsibility and turn in 100% of their homework and class work on time in the school year. As my teacher says, "I can't force you to sit at home and study; you must choose it for yourself."

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