Gabriel, High School Teacher, TX
“School should be a joyful place, overwhelmingly joyful.”
Imagine your child (or one you care about deeply) is now in their 30s – out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make it a ‘good’ life?
Personally, I value contentment over happiness for my child. Contentment means comfortable with where they’ve been, confident in who they are, and excited in where they’re going. I want them to be able to support themselves and have the tools to take action to be socially, emotionally, and psychologically healthy. I want them to be passionate and curious.
Why is that important to you?
Well, I keep thinking about what I also want for myself. How can I give life meaning? What am I existing for?There's more to life than just the immediately measurable. A good life has to include a sense of wonder and mystery.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
Schools should get students excited about learning. School should be a joyful place, overwhelmingly joyful. I want schools to help elicit joyfulness in learning and development in my child. It should challenge them in a lot of ways, and put them in situations that are potentially uncomfortable but with support to help them. There should also be a focus on interaction and community, where children are learning how to be a participant in society.
"Although life can be serious, it can also be joyful and pretty kickass."
What are the most important things you hope they will learn in school?
What they hope to learn about the world and why. What contribution they would like to make and how. How to work with diverse people. Beyond a career, what kind of person do they want to be? Why and how?
Also, life can be fun! Although life can be serious, it can also be joyful and pretty kickass. Schools should introduce them to enough structure to get them started on what they're interested in, and also give them room to explore on their own. Let's empower them to create their own life, not craft them into something in particular.
Do you think schools are currently playing that role/doing what they should?
No, not really at all. Yes would be the exception, not the rule. Sometimes there's a kickass teacher here and there, but it's rarely the whole school.
Why do you think that is the case?
For one, people refer to socio-emotional learning as "non-cognitive skills," which is frustrating. I'd also blame standardized tests, ranking systems, and teachers being unsupported and underpaid. We have this very formulaic approach to teaching that does not give room for the individual complexities of each classroom, individual student, individual teacher, and whole community. School is too complex for any formula.
Do you think everyone agrees with you about the role of schooling in achieving a good life?
No! People are often focused on money and other more measurable technical skills. Also, I think a lot of people think of school as a testing ground to see who deserves the good or ideal life. It really shouldn't be that way.