As students, we all learned one important lesson from our teachers when it was time to write those dreaded reports for language arts and English class.
“Write about something you know,” the teachers would say.
Truth be told, that did make writing those papers a little easier. I once wrote a paper on hog farming and gave a series of speeches in a public speaking class about raising hogs. I had no trouble coming up with material and, even in the public speaking class I had no difficulty filling the length of time requirement. That’s a lesson I’ve learned well, apparently, because I seem to have no trouble talking these days.
But those lessons hit home again last week when I was part of a group of adults who spoke to students at Riverwood Middle School. Each person was asked to speak to a group of eighth graders about their work. It was not difficult for my partner, Kim Loftin of First Federal Bank, and I to fill our allotted time in each of the four classes we visited. In fact, in most classes, I had to look at Kim to make sure I wasn’t taking too much time.
There were all manner of professionals canvassing that school on Friday morning. There was an airline pilot, county cooperative extension agent, a banker, a restaurant owner, a dance teacher, even a movie producer, just to name a few of the businesses that were represented. Each one of them was talking about their work and what they do on a daily basis. It was the kind of stuff all the speakers knew lots about and I suspect the students, whether they know it or not, got the sense that work can be fun.
You can be sure the people who volunteered their time to speak to the students fall into the class of people who enjoy their work, otherwise they wouldn’t have taken the time to spend a couple hours talking about it.
But the event was important for more reasons than just that people had the chance to talk about subjects they enjoy.
It was also an opportunity for adults in the community, who may or may not have a close tie to a particular school, to get into that school and become, if only for a little while, a part of that school’s community.
We all have high expectations of our teachers. We expect them to turn out well-adjusted, smart graduates who are capable of succeeding in their next life step, whether that’s college or the world of work.
But we’re foolish to think teachers can do it all by themselves. To be honest, I doubt any of those teachers could have talked intelligently about the demands of being a newspaper editor. I doubt any of them could give their students a real good explanation of what it takes to fly a jet plane or why any of those jobs would be fun and rewarding.
We’re all invested, whether we like it or not, in how well our students learn. The outcome is too important to leave to a single group of people. Sure, we expect our teachers to carry the bulk of that responsibility, but we should all be looking for ways to pitch in and be part of that process in some way.
In the end, we all win when more people get involved with our young people.