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Pyatt: Road to learning is long and kids are taking pandemic in stride, no need for knee-jerk reactions | COMMENTARY

There is some consternation about the lowering of test scores in today’s students because of home schooling and video lessons due to the pandemic. Teamwork and adaptability are going to be key in the post-pandemic job market, along with math and science and computer skills. 

Looking at the bright side, this year with its confusing hybrid learning system could teach adaptability and allow a breather for some advanced high school whiz kids. Yet the Board of Education — in knee-jerk reactions from the public— keeps making sporadic start-and-stop decisions that cause confusion. They seem oblivious to consistent and long-range projections from the CDC and from Dr. Fauci regarding the continuation of this latest wave until late winter or spring.

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Only about a quarter of my high school class — admittedly it’s been a while — went on to attend college. I was in the “college prep” group, and I didn’t study all that hard. I had pretty good grades but not at the very top. There was a big family squabble over whether there was enough money to send me to college or whether I would have to work for a few years and save up enough money. Mom won, of course, and at the tender age of 17, after a summer job and taking on student loans, I went on to major in engineering, my lifelong goal, at a state university. But some of the socializing helped me later on.

We were told the first week of classes that only about 25% of freshmen engineering majors would graduate. Boy, talk about a wake-up call! I never studied so hard in my life, getting up around 7 a.m., grabbing a quick breakfast, going to class all day and then staying up until about 2 a.m.  I took one class, got a hundred on the first test, then got a 5% on the second exam and a 33% on the third exam and was convinced I would be a failure. Somehow I got a B in the course, but what was the point? I think it was to learn how to forge ahead and tailor your expectations to what you can accomplish. But persevere.

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I eventually did pretty well — I suppose I did so to please my folks and validate their decision — and then went to get my graduate degree.  What I discovered was that it took perhaps 5 years of concentrated and challenging effort to learn the math and science — although I didn’t realize it at the time — yet it took 15 years or longer to get the team building, trust, and interpersonal skills to be a really productive worker.

The pandemic has spooked parents of this generation who want to see their kids excel — or over-excel — into this scenario whereby they are possibly jeopardizing the community health and safety. Sometimes we spend almost a quarter of a million dollars for a “degree” that’s only a small — though definitely a very important one — part of the puzzle. 

Today’s kids are really smart. I would never ask anybody over 15 to fix my iPhone or download an app. At the same time, the human psyche can only sustain this period of sustained study for a certain extended period of time, and we periodically have to recharge ourselves. This might be that kind of year.

We are all frustrated over the pandemic. I think the kids are taking it more in stride. I am more sympathetic to the teachers, and they are perhaps the most common and non-replaceable element.  

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I remember my English teacher, Mrs. Sievers, who sensed something in me and went out of her way to get through to me. I ended up taking honors English because of her persistence, although my overall workload went up substantially. It’s not always about grades. My uncle Ralph was president of our local school board, and he was a nice man. But until he handed me my diploma, I had no interaction with him.

The road to learning is long, bumpy, up and down, and sometimes almost comes to a halt. But the roads will always be there. I think slow and steady is the best path. This often includes classroom, hands on, and work experience.

Dave Pyatt writes from Mount Airy. Reach him at DPyatt2@verizon.net.

For any member of the community who would like to submit a guest community voices column for publication consideration, it should be approximately 700 words and sent to bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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