I had the opportunity to speak at a community event this past week for an organization that comes into our school and runs an out of school program for our students. I was asked to speak on my perspective of the needs of teenagers in our school community.
As I was preparing for this talk, I found myself considering the following two questions:
- What is the purpose of a school?
- What do I hope my own children get out of going to school?
As I continued to think about my own children and their unique qualities under the guise of these two questions, there were three big ideas that came to mind.
I want my kids to be loved and cared for on a daily basis. If I subtract out the time my kids sleep at night, they spend a considerable amount more time at school during the week than at home. This means for them that school must be a home away from home. I trust that while my kids are at school they are in an environment that is safe and with people who care for them. I know my kids are not perfect, but their unique personalities are what make them special. I want to know that when they are at school there is someone there who loves them and cares for them. I want to know that people (teachers, administrators, etc.) care more about who they are, than what they do. We have an awesome responsibility as teachers – people trust us with their most precious things in the world. Just like my own children, no child is perfect. And every child can be a challenge in their own way, but we must love them anyway. Above anything else, I want my kids to be in an environment with someone who cares for them every day!
I want my kids to have opportunities to try new things and take risks in a safe environment. The point of education must be to help students find their passion and be successful members of society. They need to find an avenue that will lead them eventually to a happy life, future career, and hopefully many future successes. To find this passion we must allow students to explore, try new things, and look down multiple paths. But, we must also consider that being the age of an adolescent is a scary time for most students. People this age are often concerned with what others will think, and most students are not willing to put themselves at risk of failure, or looking silly. This is where educators come in, teachers must create safe learning environments where students have the opportunity to fail and learn from those failures. Teachers should focus on planning experiences, not just lessons, for our students. We must help our students understand learning is a journey and on that journey failure is often a vital part of success.
I want my kids to learn. Please take notice that I did not say: I want them to get good grades or to pass a test. I want my kids to learn. I struggle with this idea sometimes. We live in an archaic school system, using ideals and measurements for learning that have existed for decades or centuries even though science has taught us so much in the past few years about how people learn. Wanting my kids to learn, does not always equate to doing well “at school.” I don’t just want them to be able to play the game of school; I want them to be able to apply what they have learned. I want them to be able to transfer their learning to new topics and new ideas. While knowledge is important; knowledge is no longer power. Our students need to be able to do more with information than just regurgitate it. If I consider the skills I use on a daily basis that help me be successful at work, none of those skills came from a book. They came from doing! Saying I want my kids to learn means I want my kids to do, to be part of, to understand the why- the what for- and the how so, in relation to the content they are learning.
If these are the things I want for my own kids, then these must be the things I want for ALL kids. What I hope and wish for the kids I serve at school and my own children should be the same answer, right? I must endeavor to put first things first and strive to create this type of school environment in my work every day. What I want my kids to get out of school and my beliefs as a principal must align. I hope those ideals and alignment match my actions and show in my daily work.
Ask yourself these same questions:
- What is the purpose of school?
- What do you hope your own children get out of school?
Decide what you really want your kids to get out of school. Then see if what you want for your kids aligns with what happens in your school or your classroom everyday.
If these ideals align, awesome! If they do not align, ask yourself: What am I going to do differently tomorrow?
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!