Last week when I gave my 8th graders their writing prompt, I walked away being very discouraged. I asked my 8th graders and my 7th graders what types of problem solving skills they possessed. I set up a scenario for them to respond to and the results were disheartening. The scenario was simply trying to figure out why their radio wasn’t working. What’s a radio?, ok your Ipod. Jeez! Out of the forty-two 8th graders I teach, 50% of them wrote down they would go to their parents first. Almost 75% of them mentioned involving their parents to solve the problem. My 7th graders were better, but in one 7th grade class alone I had almost 50% of the students say they would consult parents first.
Don’t get me wrong, I consulted my parents when I ran into my fair share of struggles as a middle schooler. My parents, however, were the last to be made aware of any problem until I exhausted all possibilities on my own. Yes, as a middle schooler I did this. Today, students want their parents to solve their problems. I not only continue to see problems in my classroom, but I have witnessed it as a coach too. One of the biggest lessons I teach my students and have taught my players is to be advocates for themselves. Oh yes, this can be hard to do. Especially if you are shy, intimidated easily, or just not that confident. Students have to be willing to step forward when something such as this feels uncomfortable. I feel we grow the most as individuals when we do something that is a challenge or makes us feel a little uncomfortable.
While talking to my 8th graders, I was getting fired up, and almost angry because they kept wanting to constantly seek help from their parents. I had to come to the realization though, its not their fault they don’t possess these skills. The plain truth here is students today are lacking problem solving skills. Skills that can help them succeed through life. With the internet being available to us all, problem solving does come easier, but there was a time when the internet did not exist and what did we do then? One of the smartest remarks I heard from a 7th grader was to go back and read the manual. How many of our students actually read directions? This in its self is a problem solving skill.
I know over the course of this year I am going to have to work hard at developing problem solving skills in most of my students. I am ready for the challenge though, I want to see my students be successful without any crutches.