by Katie BinghamSmith | February 23, 2020
I’m going to be completely transparent: When I attended high school in the ‘90s, if you were a student who took vocational classes, everyone thought it meant you couldn’t cut it in regular school.
The cool thing to do was to graduate high school the traditional way and if you didn’t, you were treated as though you were less than.
Maybe this wasn’t the case in all schools, but it certainly was in mine. I admit that I bought into this paradigm. The stigma which came from the adults in our lives trickled down to the students. These days, as a mom to three teens, I’ve seen that kind of stigma not only persist but get even worse and that’s sad.
What if your high schooler wants to attend trade school?
No one stops to think that perhaps certain students are exploring other options because having a corporate job just doesn’t suit them. No one considers that these students may not want to spend their life doing something they hate simply because others said it was the right path to take.
My son wants to attend vocational school during his senior year of high school and I’m all for it. He has a mad passion for cars and wants to learn as much as he can, as fast as he can. Learning to repair cars makes him happy in a way that writing papers and chemistry class do not. That’s what enhances his life and makes him feel fulfilled.
Who am I to strip him of his passions, simply because I’m afraid of what others will think? He has an opportunity to start learning about something that excites him now and I think it’s wonderful that he has that choice.
I couldn’t care less about what others think about my son’s school choice, career choice, or the way he styles his hair. I care that he is happy, and that he chooses what he loves regardless of what it looks like to others.
And if he feels self conscious about his choices, even for a second, it’s my job to set him straight and remind him that his life is his.
If he barters his happiness to appear more prestigious or to impress others, he’s the one who suffers, not the people on the outside judging the future he is building for himself.
The stigma of vocational school needs to end
Parents, the stigma started with us and it needs to end with us.
In the end, we all want the same thing; we want what’s best for our kids and we want them to choose a life that fulfills them and makes them feel good about themselves. For many of them, that’s choosing a life that isn’t what we’d imagined for them. For some maybe it’s not college, but trade school.
There should be no stigma attached to that choice.