This is what I write for my students the first day of school (minus one potentially profane word I would really like to be there). I don’t pretend it is all the answers or any kind of magic bullet, only that it comes well and truly from me.
“Miss, when are we ever going to use this in real life?”
As a teacher, it’s a question I get asked often, and you know what? It’s valid; it’s legit. Students deserve an education that meets their real-world needs. If an activity or assignment doesn’t do that, then I shouldn’t be teaching it.
Because at its core, education isn’t about college, not only, not for everyone. Neither is education about career preparation, at least not totally. And education is most certainly not about pasing the damned standardized tests.
Education is abut the power of choice.
When reading becomes about more than recognizing words on paper, there is power in that. When it is more than passively receiving information, there is power in that. There is power in comparing perspectives from diverse backgrounds; power in questioning biases, assumptions, and evidence; power in recognizing that in life, there are people who will lie to you — an in being prepared to face that head-on.
I don’t teach kindergarten. My job is not to shelter you from the real world but rather to equip you with the skills to successfully negotiate it.
Skills like the ability to think well and deeply — and to formalize that thought in communication with others. The abilities to analyze, evaluate, and create; to focus, organize, and explain; to share the truth of who you are and your existence on this planet. These acts touch lives and transform communities, nations, and the world. I have clear memories of writing plays and watching people in the audience walking from anger and moved to tears from sorrow and personal connection. The level of power in strong writing is amazing.
This is the power not only to meet the world on its own terms, but also to change the world so it moves — even a just a little bit — toward the terms you lay out for it. This is the power of choice.
You start cultivating this power today.