First Jobs: What do you remember?

First Jobs: What do you remember?

What do you remember about your first job? My first job was as a sales clerk at our local JCPenney store in the early 80’s. I remember when I interviewed and was hired, the manager said, “I have just the place for you!” Waiting to hear what he said, I heard “the lingerie department!” I was a little shocked, but that is in fact where I was sent and worked for several years. We had a big, 2 story Penney’s that was an anchor store in our mall. I worked at least several Christmas Eve’s right up until close (6pm) when I had to rush off to church to meet my family there for the 7pm service. I think I preferred an opening shift rather than closing because at closing we had to empty our cash drawers, count it, put in a record of our count, and take the cloth bag of money to receiving which was upstairs.  Still, I learned a lot about inventory, mark-downs, sales, and customer service. We also had our share of kooks that would call the department to “discuss” lingerie.

My youngest just finished his third week of work at his first job. He is a stock boy at one of our local grocery stores. Last night I surprised him by showing up in the store where he worked to pick up a few items. He just happened to be the first person I ran into upon entering the store and was less than thrilled to see me! I got, “really mom, you had to come here?!” Yes, I told him. This store is the only place I can get my decaffeinated tea bags! I was amused. He was not. But, by the time I finished, I had run into him at least twice more and he was smiling by the time I left! The next time I see him “at work” won’t be so awkward!

First jobs are important.  I believe that they tone set for expectations that can influence the rest of your working life.  Obviously, one of the most anticipated benefits for young people is to be paid some money for their hours worked. This naturally leads to the application of any money management discussions that might have come before working commenced. Most of us work to pay our bills. When you are a young teen, you do not have many of those, but enough to get one started saving and making decisions on what to spend some of your hard-earned dollars on purchasing. In this day and age, most likely that is going to be smart phone bills, gas money, and paying for dates and/or entertainment. The expectation in our house is that most of the money earned will be saved.

But, there are so many more intangible benefits to holding a job. They include being told what to do by someone other than your parents, being held accountable to the expectations set forth at the place of employment, being prompt, working when scheduled, and learning to interact in a polite, socially acceptable way when customer service is the priority.

Yes, as adults, we work our whole lives. But, I  do think it is important to have a first job when you are young enough to help you form some idea of what you’d like to do (or not  do) with your life. There is incredible value in that experience. So, while we don’t expect our youngest son to work a lot once school starts in a few weeks, we do expect he will continue to work, learn to manage his money, and look towards his future, just as our other two sons have done.

What did you do for your first job? What do you most remember about the experience?

Inefficiency in High School Scheduling

Inefficiency in High School Scheduling

The high school schedule during the last two weeks has been extremely frustrating. While the cancellation and rescheduling of things like our Spring athletic code meeting, an early release and a late start all due to weather are understandable, the seemingly continual changes made to class schedules are not.

A state bound wrestling team, term two recognition ceremony, winter sports recognition, guest speakers on school culture, character development, the monthly early release day for staff development, and more all contribute to schedule changes that mean shortened classes for students and less time for instruction.

Last year, a daily advisory period  was instituted. Although I might get some argument, I liken this to a homeroom period (which we do not have now). Previously, homeroom was held about once a month or whenever there was a need to conduct something with the masses. As I understand it, due to the increased need for students to have a period in the day when visits to teachers for extra help or to retake a test could be scheduled, as well as any “mass” filling out of forms, character instruction, or entire study body assembly attendance, the daily advisory period was born. Let me be clear, I think it is good to have this period. However, I do not think it is being used as intended. It has become a catch-all for whatever non-academic student event is dreamed of. There have been so many such events in the last two weeks, that my sophomore, who needs to retake a AP Calculus AB chapter exam has yet to be able to schedule it. He and the teacher have agreed a number of times on a day, using the advisory period, only to have it be impossible for him to attend due to some required time in advisory – for a non-academic reason.

If the advisory period is to help students get extra help, see a teacher for clarification, run to the library for a book, extra reference, or to print an assignment, or meet with other students to work on projects, it is failing miserably. The only thing it is succeeding at is interrupting the school day with non-essential assemblies, and form completion. I do not even think it is succeeding at the character development because the students (my students) are so resentful of the time they need to give up, many of the well-intended messages do not get through.

I find my students studying for tests thinking they will take them in advisory, only to find out their efforts to go over previous work, learn it better or more thoroughly and schedule the time with the teacher doesn’t pay off because they are told they “need” to stay in advisory. This was the case yesterday for my sophomore.  He was not released by his advisory teacher to go and re-take the calculus exam because he had to stay for some forum. I do not even know what it was about, it just angered me.  We are sending the wrong message to our students and it is this: academics come last. Every speaker, every assembly, every form, every sports team recognition, and every character building activity comes before academics. It is wrong!

Last week, our juniors all took the ACT test. The state of Wisconsin now pays for that test for all juniors. It is given during the school day.  No longer do students follow a prescribed freshman, sophomore, junior, senior course load. Students of all grades are in all classes from AP all the way through the tech labs like CAD.  The classes are mixed, as students choose what they take to fill their schedule. This creates a problem when the junior class is “out of commission” for a day or two to take a mass administered exam.

The same day the sophomores had field trips scheduled to visit various area college campuses. And, from what I heard, the freshmen had a different field trip that day. That left our senior class with an altered schedule that turned out to be worthless. Lessons on mindfulness, college prep, and movie watching is what was offered. It was really a waste for those students (of which I had one) and poorly orchestrated.  So much more could have been done with that time. It seems to me that the senior class got overlooked. Teaching could not take place because many of the classes were missing so many students due to testing and field trips that covering any new curriculum was a complete impossibility.  What really bothered me was that the night before this happened, we attended parent-teacher conferences, and no one mentioned this at all! It took our senior telling us about the crazily altered schedule later that night.

I think our administration feels it is doing a good job. But, it is all these little things – and the ever-increasing altered schedules, loss of instructional time, and building resentment among students and parents that proves otherwise. School is a lot of things, and rapidly becoming a place to try to instill too many things, but formal schooling is for learning. Currently, there are many missed opportunities to allow our students to be successful at the one thing they supposed to attend school to attain: an education.

The last time I wrote a post expressing my opinion about my own experience, it landed me in trouble with some district staff. I realize it could happen again. But, you know, I stand for the students and what is going on is not of benefit to them.

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by TwoWritingTeachers. For 31 days in March, participants blog a “slice” from their life and share it. It is my second year of participation in this challenge that includes a wonderfully supportive community of writers. Thank you for the opportunity, TwoWritingTeachers