Theres a revolution taking place in my house. Its called – lets teach these kids how to work. Starting with the basics. Like how to notice when things are dirty and what to do about them Like how to scrub floors. And clean toilets. And how to make dinner for 7 - without trashing the place. Grandmother stopped by over the weekend and Little Daughter invited her in “to come and look at my toilet Nana! See how clean it is? See how I made it shine?” Ahhhh…theres nothing like the thrill of a job well done ay?!
So what brought this on? We had a Young Adult visit over the holidays. She couldn’t cook or clean to save her life. Or ours. And she showed a distinct dislike for the very idea of learning how to do anything that vaguely represented hard work. Her voice was on constant auto-whine. How do you turn on the stove?..what do you do with the full rubbish bags?...How do you cook mince?...The toilet smells – do you have any stuff to make it smell good? The 12 year old dishwashed circles around her. The only skill she seemed to possess in abundance was knowing how to text REALLY FAST. I’ll admit she did know how to Bebo – but then she messed up my entire computer when asked to type a letter for the business. She only noticed housework when it jumped up and hit her on the head…(something I was sorely tempted to do myself on several occasions.) If nothing else though, her visit struck fear in my heart at the thought of what my Five will be like when they’re her age. Yes I have ransomed my arm and leg to pay for the ‘best’ possible schools for them. Yes I read to them, do homework with them, and on a good day you could call them courteous, respectful and polite. BUT do they know how to work? So what if they can come first in class and are on the fast track to University. That means nothing if they cant show up to a job on time, work unsupervised, show initiative and creativity, know how to see something that needs doing and then do it and do it right. Do they know how to sweat for their sene’s…and toil for their tala’s?
I ask you – what kind of workers are YOU raising? Theres been a lot of graduation ceremonies on TV lately. Its encouraging to see so many of our young people getting qualifications. Hopefully that translates to getting jobs. But I wonder how prepared our youth really are for WORK. One shop owner complained recently – “Theres no point this girl having passes in History, Geography and English when she cant speak to customers politely and she turns her nose up when I tell her to mop the floor. These young people think working in a shop is nothing but dressing nice and pushing buttons on the cash register.” Another business manager commented that ‘nowadays everyone wants to work in a office. But then all they want to do is sit there and answer the phone. And you cant even leave them on their own for a minute because they will do nothing unless you spell it out for them.” There seems to be something missing in the youthful workforce…
We all know it starts in the home. But schools have a part to play as well. In a former life, I was a teacher. On my first day at one local high school I was told – “Now these two classes are made up of students who have no hope of passing PSSC so we don’t bother teaching them the curriculum. They are preparing for the workforce.” Okaaaay…so what do I teach them? “Oh it doesn’t matter. They wont be sitting any exams so you can just teach them whatever you want to. Show them how to write their CV’s…” Brilliant suggestion. Let me see, how many pages will we need for these teenagers to list their vast work skills and experience? How many ways can we describe…knows how to play rugby/goes to Sunday School faithfully/can dance really fast really well… To cut a long (and interesting) story short, I spent a delightful term with those two classes working on all kinds of “work” related skills. A highlight of the year was having one determined young man excitedly show us how he had applied for not one, but FIVE different jobs and been accepted by all of them. He was starting work that night as a waiter at a hotel. However, the class celebratory mood was cut short by the young mans irate parents calling the school to demand why their son was out looking for jobs when he was supposed to be preparing to sit PSSC? They didn’t want him going to work. They wanted him to get good marks and go to UPY and then on to ‘bigger and brighter’ things. Obviously the school had neglected to inform them that their son “had no hope of passing any exams.” Hmmm…with his energy and enthusiasm tho, Im convinced he was headed for things much bigger and brighter than half the kids in the exam stream classes.
Everybody wants the very best for their children. Nobody WANTS their kid to sell salus or nius forever. Theres some parents who give their kids everything – except the basics. You’ve seen them. They drive Daddy’s LandCruiser to school. And call mummy on the latest cell. And hit brother on the head with a PSP…because they have lots of ‘em. And they flash hundred dollar bills at the school canteen. And wear jewelry that normal people need to take out a loan to buy. I shall generalize here and say these are usually the same kids that ten years from now are working at daddy’s shop because they cant get a job anywhere else. Or are enrolling in their tenth course of study because they’re ‘finding themselves’ (courtesy of mummys money) Or (heaven forbid) are asking loudly “How do you turn on the stove?”
So what do we do? Theres no easy solutions. As a former teacher, I know that school curriculums need greater REAL LIFE skills and knowledge in them. Forget about the capital of Peru. I want my kid to master effective time management, have problem solving skills and the vocab and technological smarts needed to work in todays fast paced world. I know he’ll need creativity and a highly ingrained work ethic to get a decent job and keep it. As a parent, sure I’ll be thrilled if he is Dux of his school and earns a scholarship to somewhere amazing. But if he can’t make a toilet shine…or doesn’t know how much sweat it takes to mow the lawn…then my job as his mother is only half done.