Caitlin, Special Education Teacher and Resource Specialist, CA
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?
Well the first thing, so cliché, is I would just want them to be so happy and have happiness in their life whatever that means for them. And you know its difficult for me to say for different kids because they can be at all sorts of different levels but generally speaking I would want them to have all the tools in their toolbox just to approach life, whether they have special needs or no special needs at all. Just having all the tools possible to access their greatest success and greatest goals and really feel proud of themselves in whatever capacity that is. I think there are, of course, people who would define it by success in a job or success monetarily which can of course add to a good life as well, but I feel very strongly about happiness and having all the things in your life that bring you happiness.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
Baseline, providing an environment for students that is safe where they can go to school and feel like they can make mistakes and figure things out and problem solve at their speed and feel successful. In conjunction with whoever is raising the child, social emotional learning needs to be a huge component of every child’s curriculum, every day. If we aren’t meeting those needs then nothing else is going to be accomplished effectively. If we want good global citizens that are passionate about anything and are caring and want to take care of the next generation then we need to be doing those things and focusing on those things first.
Do you think everyone agrees with you about the role of schooling within that?
I think its probably divided I think some people think the role of schooling is to learn academics and then all of the social emotional stuff and all of the behavior should be taken care of by the parent and the other half thinks it should be in conjunction with the school.
Do you think schools are currently playing that role/doing what they should (for you/your child and for everyone)?
In the past 10 years or so I’ve seen a huge switch – when I first started teaching I didn’t see social emotional learning embedded in curriculum - if it was there it was because it was innately there within the teacher and now schools and districts are starting to pay attention to it and starting to see the value in it and they are taking baseline data on how students feel at school and those emotional roles are played everyday. I don’t think that piece of education is growing fast enough but I do see progress.
What is the purpose of education?
Many different things – I think that we need to be, all of us, everyone in the community, needs to be taking part in raising children that will be impactful citizens in the world and in their communities and that means academically, social emotionally, behaviorally – all of those things need to be in line. Students need to learn how to be adults and that is the role of school, like how are you going to function as an adult in this world and contribute to society in a meaningful way.
What does meaningful mean to you?
I think it has its own definition within education. Meaningful in that whoever it is about – whoever is using the world meaningful or whoever it is being used for – that that person is experiencing something and they are really critically thinking about that experience and being impacted by that experience, whether it’s a lesson or how they feel when they arrive at school every day.