Have you ever wondered what our youth are taught in school?
You’re in luck, here’s a glimpse into my classroom.
I teach sixth graders for a living. If you follow education at all, you are aware of the Common Core Standards, which are the set of skills that students are expected to master by the time they graduate from high school.
Whether you like these standards, hate them or are indifferent toward them, the fact is that there are a lot of them. They are comprehensive and overwhelming, but as a professional educator, I am tasked with teaching them. And I do.
But here’s the rub. And we all know this. Education is vastly broader than academic material. We are all much more complicated than what can be printed in any textbook.
Kids arrive in my class with a thirst to explore the deeper things of life. I have the privilege of living in their world. I get to observe our youth. I interact with them outside the four crisp edges of the page or the rigid demands of a standard.
Bigger still, I am their friend and they are mine.
In response and after much reflection, I have developed seven lessons that do not exist within the Common Core Standards but do within my classroom.
Lesson One: Love the adults who love you. Be kind to them. Talk nicely about them to your friends. These are the people who care about you more than anyone else. They are a source of pride for you. Let them love you. Tell them you love them. Get the waffle plate from under your bed and wash it.
Lesson Two: Being bored is a decision. If you sit there, with your arms crossed, and a scornful look on your face, just waiting for life to wake you up…it never will. Life is largely not exciting. The big events are few and far between. But if you can find joy in the ordinary, your life blooms with excitement and fulfillment. That power belongs to each person. If you decide life is boring, you are right. If you decide life is a thrilling adventure, you are right. Choose wisely.
Lesson Three: “I forgot” is the lamest excuse ever. Even if it is true, no one believes it or wants to hear it. Instead, own up to the truth. I would much rather hear, “I didn’t make my homework a priority so I didn’t finish it,” or “I elected to hang with my bestie over studying for the test.” I mean, I’ve been there too. Let’s be honest with each other so we can move forward together.
Lesson Four: It is okay to struggle. Struggle is an essential ingredient in education. Hell, it is essential in life. When you find yourself in the midst of struggle, whether it is long division or an essay or friendships, embrace it. It is the way. Without struggle, we wither and stagnate. Understand that everyone struggles, but it is those who welcome it who thrive.
Lesson Five: You are capable of tremendous self-control, exercise it. When your body indicates hunger or thirst, you are capable of persevering. When your body hints at needing to use the restroom, you are capable of holding it. The power you have over all the things screaming for your attention is total. Don’t be a slave to their siren call, be the master.
Lesson Six: If you don’t understand something, it does not mean it is not understandable. Question it. Investigate it. Research it. Persist until understanding is yours. There is tremendous reward buried in that process. Go and discover it for yourself.
Lesson Seven: You have the right to be wrong. Refuse to be stifled by the fear of being wrong. There is absolutely no path forward without mistakes. It is your basic human right to be wrong. Let that sink in. Make it your friend. Now, go be wrong about something and see what it reveals.
So there they are. Of course, there could be more, but these are what have grown from my experience and interactions with my students. You could say they are organically grown.
We must stop our discussion here. I’m a bit embarrassed, but I need to ask for your forgiveness at the end of this little article. You see, the title would have you believe that these seven lessons are lessons I developed, wrote, and teach.
The truth is far deeper than I have let on. In reality, these are seven lessons my students have taught me. Inside the four walls of my our classroom, the tweens I am gifted as students have taught me far more than could ever be packed into a textbook or scribbled into the Common Core Standards.
In the end, I discover my role has changed from teacher to messenger.
And I embrace my duty to convey these seven lessons from one class to the next.
Author: John Geers
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Linh Nguyen/Flickr