Monday, January 19, 2015

What's Wrong With Teaching Vocational Classes to Our Students?

     A few years ago I looked for a contractor to build an addition onto my tiny home. After securing one, I noticed not one of his 25 workers were American. The contractor was a Vietnam Vet and as patriotic as anyone you could possibly imagine. The workers were all legal and he considered them family. (He even legally adopted one of them!) We got into a discussion about it. John said, "American schools aren't offering vocational classes and the few American guys that I hired had no work ethic. They would show up late, hung over, and smoke weed at lunch.".  He went on to say he went to Smith HS and went to work right out of high school. I asked him how that public school education worked for him. John frankly replied that he's a wealthy man. We became friends and I visited several of the Victorian mansions in Yonkers that he collected like matchbox cars.
     At the time, I was still teaching Business classes in one of the few vocational schools left. John asked me about my experiences there. I told him that many of my students went on to become small business owners or accountants. During that week one of my former students visited, after getting her CPA and making a high salary with one of the big 8 firms. She laughed and told me her mother didn't believe her salary and thought she was up to something illegal. She got permission from her firm and visited all my classes.
      That school no longer exists. Those vocational classes are no longer being taught. I'm now a glorified babysitter (ATR). Even our beloved UFT President Michael Mulgrew is a former wood shop teacher. (I don't understand his lack of empathy for us considering he would be an ATR if not for his union position.) The schools are pushing college to every student, regardless of academic readiness. No one knows carpentry, plumbing, electrical work or how to socially interact in business situations. What's wrong with teaching those skills that will earn NYC high school graduates a good salary? My son wasn't academically inclined. He graduated from a vocational high school in Westchester and went straight to work. He has the opportunity to make more money than me, doing something he loves. That's what I want for all NYC students. (And teach again!)

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Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.