Every day, I see former my high school students in the college hallways, study areas or in my own classroom. People may argue, “Not all students are destined for college.” My response, “Who are we to decide which students leave prepared and which don’t?”
My second year at YVCC, a student from my first year of teaching high school made an appearance on my roster. On paper, she would not have been “destined for college.” She was a teen mom who dropped out of high school, spent some time in alternative school and eventually got her GED. She now had three kids and wanted to provide a better life for them. Our old standards did not prepare her for college. She struggled and my heart ached that we had not prepared her better while in high school. This might seem like just one example, but in my experience, this happens more than we would like to admit.
When I hear my high school students complaining, “I’m not going to college. Why do I have to do this?” To this, I have two responses. First, my brother is a mechanic for a winery. In order to get raises, he had to independently read manuals and pass competency tests. This reading is not easy and there was no teacher to do all of the thinking for him. If he wanted to make more money for his family, he needed to comprehend the complex text, pass the competency test and ultimately be able to apply the content to his job.
My second response to the “I’m not going to college” argument is that I have students sitting in my college classes who didn’t think they were going to college, either. For example, one of my college students last spring was a gentleman who graduated from high school with me. He spent 10 years in the work force, but realized he could not be promoted without furthering his education. Another gentleman, from the previous year, had worked for over 25 years for a company that had to shut down. In his late 40s, he had to start fresh surrounded by students just out of high school.
My point is no one knows what the future is for our students. We must prepare them for whatever comes their way. These standards help teachers do just that.
Elizabeth Jensen is a high school English teacher at Grandview High School (near Yakima, Wash.). She also teaches remedial English classes at Yakima Valley Community College.