The REAL Lessons

After thirteen years of teaching I got one. A student, a wise one, stopped and asked me something that I have felt and known for more than just my years of teaching.

“Sorry, I don’t mean for this to sound offensive,” she started, “well, I am learning a lot in your class, but I have to say it’s not like I’m really going to use most of the stuff I’ve learned over the past 4 years of my high school career.”

She was SO right. Someone else said what I couldn’t. Another student told her own classmates the same words I’ve wanted to tell them all, for so long, but, well, as a teacher, I couldn’t. The words wouldn’t come out the same way.

After a 30 minute class discussion, most of the students in the class shared their thoughts too.

“I agree with you,” I started, “I know it’s not the ‘norm’ to hear this, but yes, I am your teacher and I do agree with you.”

Of course I went on to tell them that our discussion wasn’t an “excuse” for not doing the work or even meant to keep them from coming to school – not at all.

“School is a part of your life, like it or not,” I reminded them, “but when you take away something that comes from beyond a chalkboard, textbook or worksheet, that’s when you’re truly learning.”

Reminding students that they’re there to learn is important. But I’m not a “Test” person. I’m not a numbers person either. I don’t like either. I don’t do well with numbers or tests. Knowledge can’t be based on those, it just doesn’t work.

“So why are we here?,” asks a classmate… And so, I gave them my little lecture, my opinion, of why they are “here” every day. It has nothing to do with the days of meeting in a one room school house. It has nothing to do with science, math or languages.

“In my opinion, after being a student myself and seeing so many others,” I started, “you’re all here to learn about yourselves, what’s in you. What do you enjoy? What don’t you enjoy? You’re also learning how to be more social, and interact with kids and adults. Along the way you may pick up some pieces of information you like, things you enjoy- store them. Retain those. Those are your interests, follow those passions.”

While I did add more to my little speech o’the day,  most of the students were content to hear my words. It gave them the “ok” to not worry so much about numbers and scores. Put those aside and you can enjoy the material, and learn it because you WANT to.

I should mention that most of these students are upperclassmen and honors students as well. They tend to do the most worrying about their GPA and SAT scores. They see a 85 on a quizz and break out in a sweat. I have other, younger students who feel and think the same, but maybe with some more discoveries, they too can start enjoying school more, fear less, and finding out a bit more about their true selves.


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