Caitlin, Teacher, MA
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?
Having a fulfilling career where they are challenged intellectually and they have the ability to use their whole selves, so they don’t feel like part of their self is left behind when they go to the workplace. Having a family life and feeling fulfilled in a relationship. Having a secure living position, which is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately with rent prices what they are. And probably continued learning of some kind, whether that means they are reading articles or following podcasts; some way to stay engaged.
Do you think everyone agrees with you about what it means to live a good life?
In general, yes. I didn’t mention anything about how much money they were making, and I think financial stability is important, but I would say I don’t care if someone is a millionaire if she’s able to pay her rent, and I think other people might focus on that a little more. But I think being fulfilled and having relationships are things that would be well regarded by lots of people.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
There are two parts. The less obvious part is finding a fulfilling relationship and your ability to relate to other people. That’s something we don’t talk about in education, but it’s important. As teachers, we need to model how to build relationships.
More explicitly, school should prepare kids to be critical thinkers who adapt skills to new concepts. Even if they’re not going to use that algebra formula in daily life, the fact they can adapt that formula and use it in other contexts is important. I teach at a Catholic school, and I love that I get to dig into some of the deeper moral issues behind the literature. I very honestly believe that reading literature and talking about it with other people can help you become a better human being.
I think that a lot of people still think of school as the teacher being in front of the room giving kids a lecture. While that still happens sometimes, I think a lot of what happens in school today is project-based, inquiry-based, or at the bare minimum school is seen as a place where kids have something to bring to the table. It ideally positions kid as problem-solvers, making them active members in their learning. It prepares kids for when they go into the workplace by saying, “You are a valuable member of this team.” I think the style of the classroom and the type of learning that is done is important. If you do have that very traditional lecture-based classroom, it’s less valuable for helping kids to become valuable members of society in the 21st century.
Do you think everyone agrees with you about the role of schooling?
It’s interesting because I think the two types of people who most easily fall into lecture mode are the brand new teacher and the ones who have been teaching for 30 years and never went back to learn a different style. There are a ton of great veteran teachers who keep up with and implement new instructional practices, but there are also those who have not kept up with new educational paradigms and are unwilling to spend the time it would take to redevelop their lessons. Because it is a drastically way of thinking and teaching, and it certainly would take work. And to be fair, that time it would take to redesign is not built into the school day.