by Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor - First of all, let me thank all those San Pedro community members who responded (positively or negatively) online to the announcement of San Pedro High School’s new “In School Suspension” program. Our community’s involvement in everything that goes on in our schools is not only paramount, but absolutely necessary to help our schools to “bring out the best” in each student.  

Schools do not/cannot work in isolation! To those of you who may still think that all you have to do is send students to school for several years, and the school must perform the miraculous job of turning out a “well-rounded” and productive citizen, I say: Wake up and smell the coffee!  Schools are not miracle machines. Without your (the community) active participation our schools’ can do nothing other than teach the 3 Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic).

However, in today’s world, we need far more than just the 3 Rs to get by. Perhaps, with your example, participation, and guidance, our students will have a path to follow to learn how to become successful and productive citizens, just like you.

Secondly, to all those who keep screaming that our school is not doing its job because it is not doing what it used to do, “when you were there”, let me say: Wake up and smell the coffee! We are now living in 2011 -- not 10, or 15, or 25 years ago. San Pedro High School was founded 40 years ago and started with less than 40 students. Today we have nearly 500 students. Unlike when our school was founded, each student today has access to cell phones (instant communication by voice or text), computers (internet and Facebook), television (anything they choose to see), and to so many other modern technological inventions.

Yesterday’s schools (administrators and teachers) did not have to compete with all those gadgets to get students’ attention, and still be able to “bring out the best” in them. Most of the students from “when you were there” came from families with two parents, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and a community who looked out for them. So many of our students in 2011 come from ‘non-existent’ families, or single parent families, or from families where everyone is working, and no one has the time to “raise” the children. And yet, you still expect us, the school, to deal with all these students today the same way we dealt with students “when you were there”?  Wake up and smell the coffee!

To those who served suspensions in the past by working hard for the Town Council, or by doing creative tasks that your Principal gave you, I say: It’s great that you got something from that hard work.  However, the nearly 500 students who we work with today are NOT the same students who the school worked with “when you were there”.

Students today bring all sorts of emotional ‘baggage’ to school every day that students “when you were there” did not have. And, to “bring out the best” in each student today, we must deal with each one in a way that shows that we do understand where they’re coming from, and in a way that shows that we “care” how they turn out.

Do you actually believe that we can solve today’s rampant crime in Belize City merely by locking everyone away? Do we solve our problems at school by merely sending home all students who misbehave? We’d hardly have anyone left to teach! We have so, so many students whose parents think that they can do no wrong – yet those are the very students, who according to you, we should ‘expel’ and send out to work and clean the streets.  

As a guidance counselor, I attempt to help students with problems by getting to the very root of what caused their problem: no one to guide them at home; way too many distractions for them, and no one to monitor them or ‘set them straight’; no one in the community to care why or how they do what they do. And, keep in mind that as a school we are supposed to educate – not also raise your children for you because you do not have the time nor interest.

Moreover, at one time, most of our students came from one primary school on this island. Today our nearly 500 students come from eight primary schools on this island, and from districts as far North as Corozal, as far South as Toledo, from various Central American countries, from USA, from China, and from England. Still think that we must deal with them every day here in school the exact same as “when you were here”?  

Our students today have a guidance counselor whose job it is to:
* help students with academic achievement in high school
* help students with personal growth and development
* help students address discipline, attendance, or personal problems
* help identify “at risk” students and implement interventions to enhance success
* help students plan and prepare for post-secondary schooling
* help students plan and prepare for their work roles after high school

Are you suggesting that, because you did not have a guidance counselor “when you were in school”, then neither should the almost 500 students today?  Are you suggesting that people should not use cell phones today because in your day everyone got along fine without cell phones?  We must change with the times, and adapt to the times – not live in the past.  There is a colorful, yet powerful, saying in the Spanish language: ‘El pescado por la boca cae’. I suggest to all those who are on the sidelines screaming and shouting down to our educators:  think, before you start screaming!

Related Link: San Pedro High Implements New Suspension Program

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