***Post written by Bob Bayuk, Northwest Representative for WSPA***

Some years back when I was working in Worland, my boss and I put on a workshop in Cody.  We invited BJ Wise and Kim Marcum from Randy Sprick’s group to come talk about meaningful work, finding a way to get ‘bad kids’ to do ‘good things.’  Wise and Marcum authored a book entitled Meaningful Work.

Meaningful Work focuses on changing kids’ behavior in school. This positive behavior support helps kids with a history of bad behavior and failure become more valuable members of their school.  Like all of us, young people are looking to be good at something. Sadly, some kids who misbehave have found that they are very good at being bad.

This is where meaningful work comes in.

Again, years ago, while walking down the hall behind another staff member, a Worland High School boy was seen crumpling and dropping some paper on the hallway floor.  The staff member ahead of me saw what happened and told the young man that he needed to pick up the paper and throw the paper in the trash.  The kid said it was not his job to do that – that’s what janitors were for.  Needless to say, this did not go well.  After some discussion of consequences the boy retrieved the paper and threw it away in the trashcan – with much mumbling and dirty looks.

Japanese culture is about people who clean up after themselves — toddler to senior, cradle to grave.  In Japan, cleanliness rules!  In Japanese schools, cleaning is part of each student’s everyday routine. Some examples of extreme Japanese cleanliness have gone viral, like the seven-minute Shinkansen train-cleaning ritual that has become a tourist attraction in its own right. “We Japanese are very sensitive about our reputation in others’ eyes,” one individual said. “We don’t want others to think we are bad people who don’t have enough education or upbringing to clean things up.”

Here in the USA, we often hear from employers that our young graduates are not prepared for the world of work.  They have neither the skills nor the work ethic to be successful in the workplace.  Maybe more meaningful work experiences, under supervision and control, might be part of overcoming that gap in school-to-work transition.

I’m now going to sound like the geezer I’m becoming, but just roll with me for a minute here. When I was in school, my job was to go to school, do my work, and learn. That was my job. The one that would set the stage for all the jobs coming after, the one without successful completion thereof I would be stamped with the storied “L on my forehead” and consigned to the career-and-success scrap heap. It was up to me to learn as much as I could, and use that knowledge to forge my way in the world.

Let’s do our job.  Let’s put the work back into schoolwork.