Teenagers in the workforce: vol. 2

Teachers speak out on students work hours


Photo utilized from Pixabay

Imagine you’re in class at 8:00 am barely able to keep your head up after working an 8-hour shift the night before at Arbyś, dealing with customers and a whole other list of things. That’s the reality for many teenagers going to school and working full time.

This is the second installment to our three-part series covering teens working full-time. This part is about how teachers feel about teenagers working and going to school full-time. The first installment covered employment laws and managers’ opinions. For years, teachers have talked to students out of concern about work schedules affecting their school work. Teachers can tell when their students are coming tired to school and they can also tell when they are falling behind. Teachers at Abraham Lincoln High School had similar responses to each other about how they deal with students working and going to school.

Economics teacher at ALHS, Myron Wilder, thinks that students are losing a lot of opportunities if they choose to work and not make school their full-time job.

“So my thoughts are that a lot of students work too much in high school. In some cases they are contributing to the family, they need to help out and that kind of thing,” Wilder said. “In a lot of cases, they just want to get stuff they don’t necessarily have, just stuff they want and I think they miss out on a lot of stuff that goes on in school, activities they could go out for, clubs, plays, sports, and stuff like that. That makes me sad and I think maybe they will regret that as they get older but that’s hard to tell a high school student when they want some money.”

Many teachers want to see their students involved in the school. Many teachers explain that their students are going to be able to work their whole lives, and should enjoy being a teenager while they can. Although it can be hard for teachers to explain to teens that they should be involved in something very difficult, teachers try to nudge the students into things that they might be interested in. 

Rob Lindquist, the assistant principal, explains his experience of trying to be involved in the school. 

“I do not think working is an excused absence,” Lindquist said. “I had a teacher when I was in school tell me that you get to work for the rest of your life and enjoy high school while you’re here. Be present. Be involved.”

With students working full time and participating in extracurricular activities this leaves them tired for the next day. Students usually work on their assignments right after work and stay up later. Teachers have to deal with their students being tired in class and some teachers even give their students an extension for their assignments.

Marla Schoening, an art teacher, said that she doesn’t bother the students when they’re tired, as long as it’s not a habit.

“If I have a student who is really struggling to stay awake, I usually just let them be but never two days in a row. This generally does not happen very often in my room and if it does, it is usually an isolated situation, changing of medications, forgotten medication, rough weekend, moving, domestic situation, etc.” Schoening said. “I will always give my students extra time if they are making a solid effort to get it done.  Usually, students with jobs also have good communication skills when it comes to missing class.  These are the students that will email me and let me know that they are going to be gone for some reason.”

Some teachers realize that students come to school tired. Teachers believe that parents should talk to their kids about setting reasonable expectations for them working. A lot of teachers believe that students’ full-time jobs should just be learning. School will help them out in the future and help them get a job that they are more likely to enjoy. 

Steve Mendelko, an English, Drama, and History of Rock and Roll teacher, says that parents should have limits for their kids on working. 

“We are all tired, from working or whatever. It might be a ‘reason’ for being tired, and therefore reasonable,” Mandelko said. “However, students, and their families, need to set reasonable boundaries and limits on work. If it is having a negative impact on their work, then they should not be working the job or hours that they have, regardless of why it might be needed. School should be a student’s first priority at this point in their life. You will be working for the rest of your life. Do the learning now.”

Many teachers want their students to communicate with them about giving them extra time on assignments. For teachers to be able to understand what their students are going through they want communication. A lot of teachers explain that communication is key when it comes to turning in late work. Students tend to stay up late to be able to work on assignments, and want some extra time to be able to get them done. 

Bryan Pregon teaches Government, Legal Studies Foundations, and Legal Studies Application. Pregon says he gives extra time to students no matter the situation as long as they communicate with him. 

“Yeah, that is something I do. I think in order for that to work, students need to communicate what their sensations are because a lot of times they are unwilling to do that for teachers, and teachers just have to assume, ‘well I don’t really know why this student isn’t getting their work done or why they are sleeping in class.’ If a student is able to communicate those things there’s at least another level of empathy for the teacher to try to make some combinations with the student. ‘Here is the situation, here is what I need, this deadline to be meant.’ Those are short of things, so I think communication is gonna be the best way to deal with this.”

Everyone is coming out of two years of a pandemic, and many students and teens already have a lot of mental health struggles. A teacher believes the pandemic causes teens to have mental health issues more and is something that should be handled better. Teens have to help out with many bills, and this is one of the many reasons they are working a lot of hours.

Brian Moritz, a science teacher, believes that the government should be able to help families out more so students don’t have to. 

“It’s different from how we’re coming out two years in a pandemic and there’s all the additional anxiety and mental anguish that causes people. Do I think it’s fair or reasonable that students work? Maybe to a certain degree but not excessively, I know that there are some students that do have to work to provide for their homes or for their families, I think that’s a sad scenario. I think that is pretty sad, I think in situations like that there should be some type of government support for the families, if a family of four, five, or six and mom and dad working isn’t enough to provide for the family, there is something wrong. For students working at 15 and 16 years old and not adults themselves and have to take on the responsibility of an adult that’s terrible.”