I will sometimes hear teachers complain that learning is not valued in the homes of their students. Here are the two problems with letting yourself think these things.
First — how do I put this gently? — it's profoundly misguided for me to assume that I can make claims about what is and isn't valued in a student's home. I've been doing this long enough to have many, many students and families surprise me by revealing things, months or years into knowing them, that were unclear to me based on what I saw in school. And if you were to judge the values of the Stuart home based on what you see or don't see in my kids? Opportunities to misjudge would abound.
Basically, folks are complex; homes and families, even more so. We're better off with a humbler, “I know less than I think” kind of stance toward our students' homes.
Second, let's say that I do have a student that comes from a home that is truly and completely antagonistic toward all things school or world history or reading literature or studying for tests.
My question is: and?
Parents and guardians have all kinds of responsibilities that we in the school don't have. Yet in my view, there is no one else in the lives of my students more responsible for cultivating Value for learning in my subject area, during the year that my students are with me, than I am. No one is more responsible. No one is better equipped. No one has greater incentive to focus on this kind of work.
I’m the person for the job.
And, colleague, so are you.
This doesn’t mean it’s our fault if students don’t come to value learning while they’re with us. It just means that it’s our fault if we don’t relentlessly aim to bring this increase in Value about.
But c'mon: Who else in the world do I expect to be a relentless reminder of the great goodness of studying world history or English language arts in the ninth grade? There is no one in my students’ lives while they’re on my roster who is more responsible or capable of this than ME!
And so, too, for you.
- You there, teaching art? There is no one in your students’ world more capable or responsible for singing the goodness of art than YOU.
- You there, teaching physical education? There is no one in your students’ world more capable or responsible for singing the goodness of physical education than YOU.
- And so on.
You and I carry around treasure chests. Would I like if everyone else in my students' worlds — their parents and guardians especially — gave voice to the Value of the treasure I'm offering their child? Absolutely. And I suspect that many more of them do than might seem the case from my vantage point.
But regardless of what happens at home, the good news is that the realm I control is powerful. In my classroom — and in yours — there can be grown the kind of life-giving counter-culture where learning is good because it’s good, it’s meaningful because it’s meaningful, it’s valuable because we’ve tasted and seen that WOW is it ever delicious.