Last week I marked my students’ Grade 9 Provincial Achievement Tests. This year’s assignment was to write about the importance of learning in a person’s life. As I was marking them, I became a little worried and had to sit back and reflect on my “persuasive tactics.”
Many students wrote about the need for learning so they could get good jobs and earn more money and be more successful. That they didn’t want to be “stuck working at McDonald’s” for the rest of their lives. I hate to admit it, but I have used that phrase with my students, especially when I’m trying to convince them of the importance of education. I think I need to stop that because I’m sending the wrong message.
When I devalue these types of jobs, what am I saying about the people who do work in them? What about the person who is working part-time to help make ends meet? The mom and dad who left their home country in search of a better life for their family? Or when their new country won’t recognize their accreditation, and they are forced to work wherever they can find a job? What am I saying to the young person who takes the job to gain experience or to earn money to help take some financial pressure off mom and dad?
Maybe if we stopped devaluing these jobs and allowed them dignity in their work, that would help address some of the high turnover rates. (As would paying them a decent wage, but that is for a whole other post) When we pull up to the take-out window for our morning coffee or egg sandwich, we need them.
I am changing the way I talk to students about education and success. I am no longer saying, “If you don’t take your education seriously, you’ll end up working at McDonald’s for the rest of your life? Is that what you want?” Ouch! Even as I write this, I’m asking myself, “You seriously said that?” Because what if they choose to? What if they work their way up the ranks? What’s wrong with that?
So I’m starting to talk to them about the importance of education and learning. That if we take our education seriously and keep learning, we’ll have more choices about what we could do for a living. And that being able to have choices about what we do for a living is the key to success and happiness. And, yes, I’ll take fries with that.
What do you think? How do you try to motivate our youth to get an education? Are you guilty of using the “stuck working at McDonald’s” tactic?