Here is the advice I give my little sister's friends who are still in HS:
While HS isn't fun, it's the stepping stone to get into college. The better you do in HS the better chance you have at getting into a great college. While this doesn't seem too significant to some of these kids, the moment they start applying to jobs it will sink in. These days it's hard enough to get a job and if you don't have a solid education it's even harder. Everything builds off of what you do in HS and what path that sends you down. So while it's not fun in the moment, it will lead to a much easier time in life as you get older.
This is honestly something I used to struggle with when I was a high school student. I kept thinking, what am I ever going to need subjects like pre-calculus for in the real world? In order to keep students interested in the topics that they may feel forced to learn, I would try to relate them back to real world careers. For me, it was always more interesting to know how certain subjects are applied in real life. Who knows, maybe the team at Apple that designed the new iPhones used pre-calculus in their calculations!
This is a great question and I’ll begin by saying thank you so much for caring enough to ask.
As a recent college grad I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed learning about every subject equally, and for science in particular as a business major I found little use for it (at first). That being said, learning about things I had no interest in reinforced the concept of having to still learn them. As an adult you’re going to have to attend a lot of events that seem boring and complete a lot of tasks that aren’t so exciting. It’s called “adulting” and school was a practice run for me. It was a means to an end and I understood that. Just as you mentioned, reinforcing this life skill would be one way to help students find the value.
Another idea would be to incorporate tech into their day-to-day learnings. I found a handful of instagram accounts that discuss science through various lenses. Encouraging students to follow these accounts is a way to integrate the subject into their everyday lives. You could even try building extra credit opportunities around them.
I also saw a recent article that revealed how Generation Z Prefers YouTube Over Textbooks. This might be useful. Using technology that is native to Generation Z is a way to make information a bit more digestible to your students.
Awesome question! Something that has always been helpful to me in my education and keeps me engaged while I’m outside of class has been assignments to bring in and summarize news articles that have some connection to a topic we are learning about. Many of my university professors still have us do this. It generates great discussion in the first 30 or so minutes of class that are devoted to sharing our findings. I like these assignments because 1) even if I struggle to find a great article that aligns well with the class, I am doing outside learning when searching through the news 2) it continues to remind me that what I’m learning is relevant and regularly applied to “real world” situations and 3) I find open class discussions to be an amazing tool for continued learning, critical thinking, and a springboard for independent thinking.
For the age group you are teaching, perhaps it would be helpful to provide some topic categories or industry-specific online publications for your students to begin their search. For example, if you are teaching an english class, pointing the students to Pulitzer.org or if you’re teaching a statistics class, the New York Times Mathematics page may be a great place to start or even asking the students to find an article with statistics about ANYTHING they are interested in and talk about the way the statistics are represented, the processes used to collect them, etc. This could even be a fun practice for Fridays to discuss everything you have taught that week.
I totally understand the feeling of apathy towards some general education subjects in high school, when students are not focusing on a specific chosen major or field that is interesting to them individually. But it is important to understand that much of what we learn in secondary school is setting a necessary foundation for critical thinking and application later on in life.
With our access to the internet, endless information, and social media, the post-millennial generation feels involved in the “real world” early on in life so bringing what they are seeing in their native corners of the internet (and information that they may need to do more searching for) into their everyday education may be key to garner engagement in the classroom. Similarly, treating core classes as liberal arts learning may decrease the apathetic atmosphere.
Good luck and thank you for being a teacher! It is clear that you care very much about doing the best you can and care about doing the best for your students.
The larger Day One team had the chance to weigh in on this question…
What if you asked them what would make class more fun? I wonder what they would say?
I wonder what an Instagram account for your class would look like - maybe use Instagram Stories to give quizzes or use IG Galleries to swipe through facts like flash cards. It'd be easy to say "Check out tonight's Instagram Story to study for tomorrow's test." You could even go so far as to tape lessons and put them on IGTV so students could rewatch if they needed.
I have been really interested in (and terrified by) the graphic visualizations coming out of Hurricane Florence in the last week or so. This one in particular! It's really powerful to see (and almost feel) the impacts of extreme weather. I think this sort of visualization will become important in helping people understand the impacts of climate change in coming years. Whether it's weather-related or some other type of science (i.e. animals or an atom dividing), VR will enhance these visuals, as well.