Jan. 24, 2021

Why Chicago Kids Are Failing In School

Why Chicago Kids Are Failing In School

Here’s the answer. School is not teaching anything that they’re interested in. I hate to be bold and blunt but this truth is hard-core.

These kids don’t care about what their school is teaching them. The only thing these kids care about right now is being heard and being understood. And yes, everything is a rush and they want it now!

5th — 12th-grade students all across Chicago don’t want to wait until they’re 30 years old to figure it out. That’s too old to be figuring out life. To many of them, life should be simple. Many of them are asking, “why does life have to be so difficult?” They’re asking questions like, ‘why did mommy and daddy divorce? Why did my uncle touch me like that? Why did they kill Brandon? Why did Grandma die? Why did the police pull out their guns? Why doesn’t my dad love me? Where did my mom go? Why did they talk to me that way? Where am I going to sleep tonight and what am I supposed to do with these feelings for the rest of my life?’ These are the questions that Chicago’s youth are asking themselves today and school isn’t giving them space, nor time, to get these questions answered. Educators talk inquiry, work, and project-based learning but schools are not helping kids understand some of life’s most basic questions like, “how am I supposed to be an Adult?”

Schools should be helping these young people understand their place in life and their value in the world. That means, in this fast-paced technology-filled environment, educators have the obligation of slowing this generation down to help them understand the importance of having a plan.

If a kid wants to be a YouTuber, an MMA fighter, a gamer, a computer programmer, a doctor, a lawyer, a firefighter, a real estate agent, a dancer, a barber or hairstylist, a nail technician, an actor, a model, a business owner, a husband, a housewife, a good son, daughter, mother, grandparent, or whatever… you want to have a plan and not all plans require a lifetime of planning to figure it out. Educators have to help students who are academically behind, understand the importance of creating a plan of action for their lives. Educators also have to answer questions about childhood traumas (which will help them appreciate therapy). Educators have to switch up what they’re currently teaching young people so we can help them heal from past hurts and live amazing lives.

So while Pearson is pushing standardized tests in this existing climate, Chicago’s youth are failing in school because school isn’t giving them the lessons that are going to help them cope as adults. That’s why SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is so important in schools today. Even as we prepare to return to the school building, there is never going to be a, ‘pick up where we left off’. Now it’s, ‘we are going to start where we are now and focus on getting to where we want to be in the future’. This requires a return to the education plan.

Over the past 18 months, Chicago’s educational system has been turned on its ear. Students have physically been out of the classroom for nearly a year (9 months). No longer is it important to teach math or science the way we used to. For example, right now, we have the opportunity to teach writing by giving opportunities for students to write for the school website, school blog, or newsletter, and maybe now handwriting becomes part of art class (because obviously handwriting has become a lost art).

I am proposing a new curriculum that consists of five core subject areas to be taught from birth to 18 years old (pre-k — 12th). This new curriculum includes the following courses:

  1. Health and wellness
  2. Home economics
  3. Microeconomics and personal finance
  4. Entrepreneurship/ business
  5. Technology

Math, science, reading, and writing can and should be, incorporated in these five core subject areas with an emphasis on how these concepts are applied in the real world. This is project, inquiry, and work-based learning in real-time.

My second suggestion is to adjust how often kids are asked to be on a computer a day. I recommend no more than two days a week online (not to exceed three hours per day) and three days of self-directed, project-based learning time. Under this model, teachers should still be posting content regularly particularly creating YouTube videos explaining the content and hosting virtual group discussions about the topic.

And this is exactly why programs like Lion Chasers (offered by Genius Lab) are so important. Lion Chasers helps young people understand the five principles of getting past those ‘lions’ that can prevent us from moving forward in life. Imagine walking down the street and seeing a lion. I bet you would not continue to walk down the street. But what if I told you that the only thing the lion could do was roar? As a Lion Chaser, students begin to recognize that the lion’s roar is harmless and it really can’t do anything to you. If you understood that, more people would take more risks about things that they are super passionate about. As a Lion Chaser, when you walk towards your fears with confidence, purpose, and meaning, those lions will get out of your way. Educators want to develop people to have the confidence, the audacity, the veracity, and the perseverance to go for what it is that they want in life.

This is how we move nations forward; by having people who are well researched, who are morally balanced, who take responsibility, who are accountable, and who show compassion. This doesn’t mean that people won’t ever get hurt or be angry, but it does mean that fewer people will resort to violence to solve their problems.

This is not a catch-all solution, but this is a damn good start towards continuing to educate youth for the next 30 years to become amazing adults. All is not lost in this generation. As a matter of fact, I predict that this generation, generation 2037, is possibly the greatest generation in post-modern history.

Final thought, find out what your student wants to learn and encourage them to learn that.