Most of your students don't understand what school is for.
They think it's:
- Something we do because we've always done it
- A hoop to jump through
- A step on the path to a successful life
- A trial to endure
It has been years since I held any misconceptions like these against my students. I respect what Jerry Graff long ago taught me in his book Clueless in Academe: even in college, most kids don't “get” school. They don't get what it's for. And so, Graff contends, for most kids college is something like this:
- At the start of each semester, go to each of your classes and begin figuring out what each individual professor wants.
- From then until the end of the semester, work to give that professor what they want.
- Eventually, you'll graduate and get started with real life. Hang in there.
The thing is, of course, that this is not how human education started. This isn't what it is at its core. It was never meant to be like this. The teachers on which it runs don't intend this.
Yet nonetheless, the “cluelessness” continues.
The only thing for it, then, is for you and I to be cloud clearers. We've got to picture our students as these human beings who come to us with thick cloud systems hanging around their heads. And what we'd like to do for them, as we teach mastery in music or math or health or physics, is to clear those clouds away a bit.
You do this through things like:
- Teaching them how and why to do things well in your subject area (Strategy 7 in my new book)
- Making the case for school in brief, creative arguments (Strategy 4)
- Teaching them to think for themselves about things like the Value of school or what success in it looks like (Strategies 6 and 8)
- Helping them interpret outcomes as information rather than judgment (Strategy 9)
- Using Everest statements to repetitively explain what your subject is for (Ch 1 of my new book's prequel)
Clearing the clouds — it's critical, non-skippable work. The other option is cluelessness, which just isn't any fun.
P.S. I made a new page for my new book, The Will to Learn — it's here. Check out the early reviews.