Take heed of the warnings

Published 10:53 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2012

By Sherri Story

The heartbreak from Hurricane Sandy forces us to consider a question: Why don’t people listen to authority figures when they are asked, cajoled, commanded and even begged to leave an area when disaster seems imminent?

In the face of orders to evacuate, people assume they’ll be safe or they’ll be protected by the efforts of others, without giving a thought to the personal risk of the first-responders.

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I sense an analogy between that mentality and the thinking of students in upper-level courses in high school. There is a looming disaster waiting for students in high schools that I see played out every year, one that had clear warning signals ignored by so many students.

Some students masterfully fudge their way through middle school with an amazing array of tactics designed to obtain the A or B. High school is where the cries for help and rescue begin. For some, it all starts in pre-International Baccalaureate or honors’ classes; for others, manipulative tactics allow them to avoid having to actually earn their grades until they become juniors or seniors.

Despite the warnings of impending disaster from their classroom teachers, students are on the constant lookout for ways to get the A without learning the material. They think they can be the ones to make it through the storm when the tough classes hit.

Of course, slackers in schools are not new. I taught in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and I saw students using manipulative and deceptive tactics even then. But what I’m witnessing with some of our 21st-century students is the brazen expectation of top grades as an entitlement, rather than evidence of comprehension and learning.

Teachers at all levels put out warnings, which are meant to help students avoid the impending disaster of not being prepared for their upper-level classes.

The warnings sound something like this: “You must do your own homework. You must DO homework. You won’t learn if you copy other peoples’ homework. You need to study more than the night before the test. You must show your work. You need to focus in class and ask questions. You need to read and reread, outline, analyze, etc.”

But who heeds the warnings?

When the D’s and F’s start coming in an upper-level class, then everyone is looking for the classroom teacher to not only teach, but rescue, resuscitate and resurrect — often expressed by parental demands for special treatment and personal tutoring of their children.

Given the fact that it takes lots of time and energy to cheat, compile excuses and plead one’s case, why not take that time and energy and focus upon following teachers’ instructions to do the work and heed the warnings?

Whether a governor provides instructions and warnings or a teacher provides instructions and warnings, those to whom the warnings are directed need to follow the instructions and take them seriously.

By doing this, lives will be saved (and students will succeed), without the danger, emotional trauma and special treatment that are part of rescue attempts. Simply put, there’ll be no need for a rescue.

Sherri Story is an International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Biology teacher at King’s Fork High School. Email her at sherace@aol.com.