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I read this article about lost children. It was about little kids. But it actually made me think of the high school students I teach.
To answer the question in the article’s title, I’m not sure if parents of many high schoolers do know what to do.

The school I teach at is impressive, expensive, and influential. We can bury the lede here and say that almost every kid that attends the school is going to college, if they wish to. But what then? Many of the students I talk to are unclear what they will study in college. Again, by “unclear”, I mean they have no idea. They know they want to go to college, but that’s probably because they’re aware they should want to go to college.

When I talk specifically to male students, the situation gets downright alarming. Virtually all of them have no outside interests or passions, besides sports. When you ask them if they have any idea of what to do later in life…blank stares and shrugs.

This can be extremely frustrating for parents, who voice their exasperation to me all the time. They are in an unenviable situation: parents spending enormous amounts of money to have their kids attend good schools, and these kids in turn working increasingly hard on all areas of academic subjects, but no notion of what to do.
And then, of course, limited employment possibilities post-college anyway, if a kid does have some idea.

Lost children, indeed.

I’ll take some of this on and say the schools are partly to blame. At my school students usual have at least two hours of homework a night, as well as sports practice. In addition, there is standardized test prep classes, driver’s education classes, and advanced research work to impress colleges. A student could argue there’s not a lot of time to know what he or she is interested in, since they’re always working. Fair enough.

All these are choices, though. Consider sports. I do know students and parents that put in quite a bit of time on athletics, including year-round leagues, off-season workouts, private training, sports demo videos, and so on. I have to ask, for what? For a kid to go pro in their sport? The chances are better to win the lottery. And for many of these kids, the chances are MUCH better to secure an impressive white collar job. So there’s a lot of time spent on activities with little future payoff.

It all leads to many questions and some answers but perhaps not enough. Which is not what I wish to accomplish in bringing up this subject. Please understand I don’t like the idea of my students as lost. But as a teacher and a parent, the image I increasingly imagine of my students is so many of them wandering around, hoping someone will find them and take them home.

There are some solutions, however, and I will propose some if readers are interested. For now, I ask parents of teenagers and pre-teenagers: how do you foster interest in different subjects for your kids? Do you see your kids trying to figure out what is in their futures? Please tell me your thoughts.

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