A note to those who may take offence and feel that we are being overly cheeky with our satirical guide “Back to School” guide: A reminder that while school may have worked out okay for you (even though you would have still been cheering on a snow day), too many young people end up feeling dulled, defiant, detached, diagnosed, demoralized and/or directionless as a result of school. This guide is for them. Why? Because it’s time to call it like it is.

Not Excited About “Back to School”?
This handy guide may help.


1) Listen attentively to the teacher even when the subject is one that you don’t care for. Suppress your natural tendency to be bored by things that you find boring. Disregard the idea that deep and powerful learning requires a personal interest in what’s being learned.

2) When the bell rings, stop what you are doing regardless of the extent to which you are engaged in the activity. Switch immediately to the scheduled activity. Suppress your natural tendency to remain engaged in an activity that you find enjoyable.

3) Follow all directions given by the teacher. Remember: Improvisation is risky, and will likely result in a low grade. Ignore the consistent advice from those who have succeeded in their fields on the importance of learning from failure.

4) After school and on weekends, do schoolwork assigned by your teachers. See that school assignments take precedence over activities that make you come alive. Do NOT think of the world as one giant laboratory.

5) Strive for good grades and praise from adults. Seek your motivation externally, not internally.

6) Don’t get distracted or demoralized by being constantly measured and ranked against your peers in order to know where you stand in the pecking order. Disregard the research that shows that grades undermine learning.

7) Prioritize math, reading, and writing, since these are the subjects of province-wide testing. Assign less importance to the arts, entrepreneurship, technological & mechanical skills, and physical education even if these are areas in which you excel and find interesting.

8) Ignore the notion that the most crucial skills for the 21st century are intrinsic motivation, vision, and creative and critical thinking. Disregard the estimate that 65% of today’s young people will be employed in jobs that don’t yet exist… which means that the aforementioned skills will be pretty useful.

9) Conform to the expectations of an institution that was created in the 19th century to meet the needs of a different era. Remember, when it comes to your education, you don’t know best.

If you feel that these suggestions are unreasonable, there is an alternative.

Compass Centre for Self-Directed Learning exists to support young people in Ottawa and surrounding communities to discover and create their best possible selves. We foster this process through individualized collaboration between staff and teens. Guided by an advisor, you learn to take responsibility for your own education, envisioning and realizing your own goals at your own pace. Become a leader in your own life. Because learning is something you do.

Learn more at www.compassteens.org and/or join us at one of our two upcoming open houses: August 15th @ 5:30 p.m. or August 23rd @ 7 p.m.