Writer’s Block: The Autumn Of Our Discontent

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By Corinne Wnek

Isn’t it ironic that in the same week school bells ring to welcome back students and teachers, church bells toll for those who were lost on September 11, 2001?

It is also ironic that the start of a new school year, usually an optimistic time for students and teachers, is overshadowed with pessimism from a media that is addicted to parceling out one piece of bad news after another. It made me wonder about the effect all this bad news has on students. How do they gear up for another year of setting goals and hard work amid daily reports that there might not be a rosy future for them after all?


Back in ancient times when I was a student in high school and college, the mantra was that all the hard work and studying would pay off in the end. It pretty much did for those of us who went to college but also for those who bypassed more school for a good paying job. The hidden agenda in educating a child was different years ago because teachers had their jobs to do in school and parents had theirs to do at home. Social and emotional education, for instance, was largely a parent’s job.

Today, teachers and counselors conduct lessons on tolerance, personal responsibility, bullying and ‘emotional management’. Yikes! Imagine expecting teenagers to manage their emotions just because we taught a lesson to them. As a counselor, college advisor and mother, I know all too well the importance of providing strong academic programs in our schools. But I also know that many excellent students who succeed in challenging science classes fail miserably in challenging life situations.

Parents and teachers, and anyone else with a stake in our children’s lives, need to keep a positive perspective. Kids must learn how to be resilient when faced with a rejection, and how to work through difficulties to accomplish a task. They need to know that today won’t be the same as tomorrow and that sometimes they just have to be their own best cheerleader.

As the new school year gets underway, we need to find a way to remain optimistic about the future despite the sour economy, high unemployment rate and the politics of badmouthing essentially good people who are our leaders. Sometimes it’s hard for adults to separate the good guys from the bad guys and so we forget how confusing it must be for our kids, too.

Bad news, grim prospects and sourpusses will always be with us. But if can send students the message that life is a balancing act, a series of wins and losses, ups and downs, then we have done much more to insure their success than any honors course ever could!

Pretty soon now nature will put on a beautiful display of red, orange and gold that just might help us to forget one of the hottest and rainiest summers on record. Now there’s some good news!

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