A majority of our readers think that part-time work after school for teens is not a bad idea -- provided the decision to work has been a thoughtful one that both parents and teens have discussed.
Many parents write to say how proud they are of the achievements of their children who have worked part-time during their school years. Doris Martin of Goleta, Calif., tells of her son who became hooked on aviation at age 15. She and her husband encouraged him to take flying lessons, provided he earned the money himself. Money from gardening and babysitting enabled him to pay for his first lessons, and he is a pilot by profession today.
None of the students who responded think that working is a bad idea. A student from the Troy Area Senior High School in Troy, Pa., says: "Getting a job gives you a good feeling about doing something for yourself and getting a good start in life."
Many students admit that jobs may sometimes encroach on school work and activities. They advise both parents and teens to work with each other to make certain school work is the first priority, but some differ over whether or not work should take precedence over school activities.
"I think teen-agers should enjoy their time in school and get involved in school activities," writed Donna Wagner from Troy Area High School. "Let working be fun but don't let it take the fun out of school."
Her classmate Cindy Bohleyer says: "The problem of not having time for after-school activities isn't very important. Most teenagers enjoy their jobs as much as or more than the after-school activities."
Reader veto the idea of part-time jobs for various reasons. Some are young working people who say that they have "grown up too fast." Several teachers write that they have seen a drop of interest in school caused by an emphasis on jobs. Anne Lipman of Panorama City, Calif., points out that a job will not suddenly transform a teen into a responsible, independent person.
"The groundwork for that begins at home, primarily with the role-model of the parents," she says. "Further enrichment develops in the school, which is then nurtured by religious instruction and supported by sports, camping trips, hikes, etc."
Readers of all ages note how important motives are for success in school and work.
"Just earning money shouldn't be the primary motive for teen employment," says Anne M. Hofflund of San Diego. "The development of practical skills, the ability to work productively with others, as well as an introduction to his or her potential as a responsible citizen should be among the aims of a teenager's job."
Family support is very important in a student's success.
"It should be the parent's role to keep school them priority, and discuss with his child that delayed rewards are often great -- both intellectually and financially," writes Thomas S. Wyman of Palo Alto, Calif.
Patricia H. Boldt of Appleton, Wis., admires students who earn their own money for a college education, but agrees that responsibility and independence can be learned at school "by thoroughly preparing lessons, going beyond what is expected, and by reading extensively. School activities train young people to get along with others with respect and understanding."
She sees volunteer work as a productive use of time and energy. The student will experience "self-satisfaction, more valuable than any paycheck."
Here are more reader responses:
". . . Upon going into work, I was doubtful as to whether I could handle a job and keep up with school studies and a social life. However, after having entered the work force, I realize my worries were not well founded.
"I have learned so much. I have more self-discipline, responsibility, and a better understanding of what my priorities are. . . . I think many jobs provide a more valuable experience than many school activities. In today's fast paced world, jobs help a student for life after graduation.
". . . But, I will admit that it takes a high degree of dedication to excel at both grades and work." Anne Pershing Simsbury, Conn.
"Not long after I turned 16, I secured my first job and continued to work and attend school right through graduate school. Now, age 30, I am not working for money, but in many ways am taking the time I never had as a teen-ager.
"Whether a teen-ager should or shouldn't work part time depends largely on the motive for taking a job.If it helps a person learn responsibility and realize their own value outside school and family, fine. But I believe all people, not just teen-agers, ought to learn how to appreciate time, energy, and money, not just consume hours in work for dollars. . . . It's the motive that determines the difference between a great experience or just another human being learning how to be consumed by a need to do and perform." M. Barbara Howes Lowell, Mass.
"While some students seek employment to 'support a car,' many have serious career goals which are boosted by employment training and experience. . . . Many are able to handle both jobs (or job training) and school and its activities. Good training for which school credit is earned is an important aspect of education." W. C. Bowen Fullerton, Calif.
"I think teen-agers will be healthier and happier without working at a part-time job outside of school. Looking back on my high school experience, and after having been part of the work force for 10 years, I find myself wishing I had taken up more 'after-school' activities because there's a lot to be learned from working on a project in clubs, supporting debates, and participation and attendance at meetings and sports events. The trend of our life styles is toward the development of a meaningful career and this means many people will be working after marriage, after children, and retirement. That's a long time! One's school experience is short enough in comparison, and very valuable." Dianne Bassemir Seaford, N.Y.
"Yes, I think it is OK for teens to take part- time jobs -- as long as their studies and household obligations do not suffer. I did occasional babysitting on an irregular basis as a high school student but wish I had looked for a job in business. Then I would have had a better idea of the "real" world and would have altered the direction of my college studies. So I sailed on through college without the faintest idea of what I was preparing myself for. Now I'm a secretary and am looking for another career." Sandy Young Berkeley, Calif.
". . . I have had a job since the eighth grade and I'm now a senior. It has helped me learn the value of a dollar and to take on some of the responsibilities of an adult, such as paying bills and budgeting my money. I don't feel as though it becomes my top priority, though. I have to make time for homework and I'm also a cheerleader, so there is practice and games to consider, too. I would say that having a part-time job helps a teen-ager because after graduation from high school and/or college, what else if left but the world of work for most of us? It helps to slowly adjust us, rather than one sudden leap and you're into a full time job." Deanna Aslager Troy, Pa.
"As a member of the high school faculty, I see many students working outside the home. . . . Some students are able to handle a job and schoolwork. Many are just not ready for the responsibility of duties at home, work, and school. It shows in their schoolwork usually. They will take easier classes (below their true ability level) or simply not do as well in the classes they take. They are reacting to peer pressure and occasionally to parental pressure when they take jobs. . . . The gradual lack of interest in extracurricular activities such as debate teams, special clubs, and even sports has been apparent. Students are choosing priorities, and cold, hard cash often is at the top of the list." Kay Brennan Fremont, Mich.
"Our four oldest children learned the following from their part-time jobs: (1 ) The importance of savings; (2) discriminating buying; (3) planning ahead; (4) filling out tax forms; (5) appreciation of their father's hard work to provide for them; (6) joy in buying gifts for others; (7) ability to support their hobbies. Most of their activities are not highly organized so it balanced out. P.S. I helped the family budget, too." A parent Clinton, Ohio