by Marilyn Assaf, Communications Officer, University Relations, VIU

My son Robert reached an important milestone last year – high school graduation.

I felt a huge sense of relief watching him walk across the stage to receive his dogwood certificate. But what does it really mean? Yes, he’s completed 12 years of public education, but is he prepared for the future?

Sadly, my son was one those students who struggled through high school. He went through the motions of showing up for class, but with little interest or engagement in learning.

As a parent, it was painful to watch from the sidelines. Discussions around the dinner table led to the realization that Robert was bored and uninspired in most of his classes.

Conversations with teachers and counsellors seemed to go in circles. Many of them felt Robert needed to take responsibility for his own learning, but my sense is that he didn’t know how.

When I studied the high school curriculum and reviewed my son’s homework assignments, I began to think a lot about teaching and learning. I wondered – how can a student be engaged or excited about learning if his/her teachers are not engaged or excited about teaching?

One of my son’s high school social studies teachers handed out weekly work sheets for an entire semester. Each week, students were expected to read a text book and memorize hundreds of facts. They sat silently in class filling out the work sheets – there was no class discussion, no small group work, no field trips, no engagement.

When I met with this particular teacher to discuss my concerns and my son’s poor marks, it became obvious this teacher had lost his love of teaching. Nearing the end of a long career, he was coasting to retirement. Sadly, his lack of engagement translated into a missed learning opportunity for his students.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I sense that something in the K-12 system needs to change. Imagine if the majority of a student’s high school experience is with classroom teachers who are disengaged!

My son is out in the real world now, fortunately working two jobs and saving money. His future plans include post-secondary education, and for that, I am thankful.

My hope, as he moves forward, is that he’ll meet some excellent teachers along the way – coaches and mentors who inspire, encourage and motivate him to become excited about life and learning.