Opportunities Have an Expiration Date

don't be late phrase handwritten on chalkboard with vintage precise stopwatch used instead of O

There are many things that we can say about education today that are negative. The system is broken, no child left behind actually leaves children behind, it’s not a level playing field, it’s become a game of how well the schools can teach for testing rather than teaching for learning, and more.

Regardless, education is still an opportunity. What I’ve learned recently is that it, too, comes with an expiration date. I know a student who had a difficult time getting to school on time last year. Her Mom works the night shift. There’s no car in the family. She needed to wait for her Mom to get home from work so that the youngest 3-year old wouldn’t be left alone. Mom takes the bus to and from work. The student takes the bus to school. Busses can be unreliable, especially in bad weather.

So, she’s late. She’s late a lot. The school says she can switch her “free hour” to the first one in the morning and start her classes during the second hour. Sounds like a great offer – they have given her the opportunity to keep coming and learning. But, then she starts to become late for second hour. She’s late a lot. The school decides that the punitive answer is to suspend the student for 5 weeks. 5 WEEKS!!!

She becomes the primary babysitter at home. The little one doesn’t go to Day Care anymore. The student is fully responsible for the little one when the 5 weeks suspension is over. She goes to school to negotiate the remainder of the year’s plan. She is now so far behind in her schooling (the school didn’t allow her to do any online courses during her suspension) that they need to hold her back a grade now. Since she’s being held back a grade, why go to school? They need childcare at home. So, she drops out. During this year she also tuns 18 years old.

When you’ve dropped out or been kicked out of school your options become more limited. But, opportunities still exist beyond the regular school system. It’s called an “Alternative School” or a “credit recovery program” and there are several available. If you’re 18, those options are even more narrowed. If you’re 18 and have been held back a grade, from which you were already behind, the options evaporate! Gone.

So, now we wait. There’s one last opportunity and oddly enough, it’s called “Options” – but they are full. So, we wait for someone to fulfill enough credits to graduate the program and get a diploma. In this new environment, it can happen at any time. They’re churning students through a “pass/fail” system where learning is marginal but their outcomes statistics are high.

“Options” might have a spot by November. The student’s mother might get daycare for the little one, might not.

Opportunities have an expiration date. If you don’t know the truth of that going in, you are at a disadvantage which is why when the jig is up and there’s nowhere to go – you just may end up being a babysitter without the benefit of earning a living for that work. Is that what we thought would happen on those days when it was difficult to get to school on time? I doubt it.

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