Most of my students are approaching, studying for, or currently taking final exams, state regulated testing, or end of the year projects. The vast majority of them dislike it. But that’s putting it lightly.
Last night my ensemble had our weekly rehearsal. Beforehand, as I was setting up our room with chairs and music stands, the children were getting their guitars out and chatting about school in the next room. These children are ages ten through thirteen, and are all lovely, intelligent, interesting young people whom I greatly enjoy teaching each week. At first, I was shocked at the level of exasperation they expressed to each other about their frustrations involving end of the year school finals. As they continued to discuss the subject, though, I grew more thoughtful. This was sounding exactly like what my student Andy had been telling me only a few weeks ago. No parents were in the room at that moment (most of them were in the lobby area) so the children seemed to feel free to speak their minds.
Each child felt that what they were doing in school was useless to what they actually could be doing. Each child felt that the intense exams were a waste of their time, yet they were still dreading them because they knew that their worth as students was based on those tiny score numbers. Each child knew that most of the work they did in school was just “busy work”, without much inherent or practical value. Each child wondered if school got better as you moved up a grade each year.
“But at least if we do good now in school, then that means we’ll have good grades for college, right?” asked one student to another. The question was met with silence from the group. Then one child finally said, “You know, I don’t think anything we’re doing right now in school makes a difference to how we’ll do in college. By the time we get to college, most of this stuff won’t matter. We’ll be doing other things then.”
The children considered this quietly. Then another one said very matter of fact, “Well, we’ve just got to keep doing school anyway.”
I had just walked into the room, so I caught the tail end of the conversation in person. Trying to speak brightly, and curious to hear the response, I asked, “If you didn’t go to school, then what would you do every day?”
They all looked blank, then several shrugged. Nobody had an answer.
After a minute of silence, the students filed into the next room to begin rehearsal.