Two local teachers are trying to change the way kids these days think about what it means to be successful.
Carihi’s Wayne Demerse and Donnie Fitzpatrick are working with a group of students to redesign the school’s planning and life skills curriculum in an attempt to shift the mindset of what it means for students to “be ready for the real world,” and are hosting an interactive public open house on the concept next Thursday night (Oct. 19) to garner feedback and community perspectives on the topic.
“We want to open it up to the community to come and share their perspectives,” Fitzpatrick says, “about what it was like when you were a kid. Or if you’re a boss, what are you looking for in today’s youth? Or as a parent, what do you think your kids need to know before they venture out into the world? And we want all the people with those perspectives to hear from the kids themselves about how they feel so we can all work together on what it means to be a success once you leave here.”
Fitzpatrick says that for far too long, various iterations of high school “life planning”-type courses have been focused on the end goal of creating “human doings rather than human beings.”
“I mean, you’re never going to get away from the idea of ‘what am I going to do?’ but what we don’t want is for them to lose the essence of who they are while they are in pursuit of that,” he says. “Quite often, kids are sitting there having learned how to play the game, and they’ve done everything ‘right’ in terms of ‘how to be successful,’ and they’re wondering, ‘why aren’t I happy?’”
Well, that’s because they listened, Fitzpatrick says. While it’s important to pay attention to the messages being shared by those who have come before, you shouldn’t do that at the expense of listening to yourself.
“I could tell you story after story after story of listening to kids absolutely sobbing and telling me, ‘this isn’t what I want to do, but my parents won’t pay for my education if I don’t,’ or, ‘everyone is telling me this is what I should be, but I don’t want to do that.’”
And so he and Demerse are listening. In fact, they’ve spent the last six weeks listening to the students currently in the Carihi planning and grad transitions classes discuss their thoughts on the matter, and on Oct. 19 the multi-purpose room and various classrooms will be open from 6:30 to 8:00 to hear as many other perspectives as they can get.
“These are very interesting times,” says Demerse. “So we want to hear from a very wide spectrum of people about how they feel about the world.”
Who are they looking for? Anyone who wants to be a part of making the world more ready for these kids and make these kids more ready for the world.
“All we’re looking for is sincerity and your truth as you see it,” Fitzpatrick says. “If we’re asking kids to get in touch or at least delve into what their truth might be, we’re only going to be able to access that by getting real, honest answers.”
Being asked to redesign the course that is supposed to make sure kids are ready for a real world that’s completely different than it was when you were entering it, Fitzpatrick admits, is a mighty big mountain to climb, but the opportunity has presented itself to do just that, so they’re going to damn well try, he says.
“You have to give permission for it to get messy,” he says. “If we go into it approaching it as ‘this is where it’s going to go and this is what it’s going to be,’ then we’ve lost the whole essence of it. It’s a daunting task to try and do this, but there’s nothing worse than seeing kids sitting there in front of you in a classroom who have completely lost who they are while trying to appease other people. To me, that’s the complete antithesis of education.”
Anyone with questions can contact Demerse at firstname.lastname@example.org or Fitzpatrick at email@example.com or just show up next Thursday night and find out what’s going on first hand – and be part of the solution.
“We want to put together a curriculum that isn’t based on what we think they need to know – because we can’t possibly know how their world works. We want to work with them to create something where they have designed the curriculum based on what they hear from the community, combined with their experience, based on all the perspectives they can gather while giving themselves a voice in the process.”