Shana, Teacher, NYC
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?
I am thinking about a student I had two years ago, who is a really intelligent kid. I had a really great relationship with his mom and I still do. I just want him to be successful with his own definition of what success is. I think as teachers and parents we often have this view of what you want your child or student to do. You may consider that successful but that may not be what they want. I am thinking about a lot of his strengths, and I know that he was a strong reader. For me, I would love if he did something like politics or something that required a lot of public speaking because he likes to be on stage. That’s just my view of him. He could be an attorney, a judge or something like that but, I would just want for him what he wants for himself.
Do you think everyone agrees with you about what a good life is?
I think a lot of teachers and parents would agree with me. I can’t say all but a good majority would agree with what I would want for him and what I would want for all of my kids. But I am not sure if that I what he would want for himself.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
It should be guidance towards that place [the good life]. So often schools are very focused on academics and not enough on character development and developing the child holistically. Whether it be really supporting the Arts, and not just saying we support the Arts because there is an Arts program but actually supporting a child who may not be the strongest in reading or math but is really strong in performing…actually supporting that child in whatever they want for themselves. I feel like so often we forget that their own opinions of themselves matter.
How do you see schools helping students form opinions of themselves? What would that look like to you?
My ideal school would have time for exploratory learning which means a lot less teacher direction and more teacher support and guidance and a lot more student autonomy. Not anarchy, but students have a lot more of a say and a lot more choice of what they want to do. Bringing it back to academics, there should be more flexible groupings. I think a lot of school structures can be very rigid. I think schools should be supporting students with what they need. Schools should still provide a foundation to be successful. There’s no substitution for strong reading skills and strong math skills. Those things need to be solidified, especially in the K-2 years but it should be a lot more student directed and a lot less teacher directed. A lot of schools have issues with that because you don’t always have teachers that can facilitate that well especially if they are young and new or have a particular mindset [biases] which teachers in urban schools often have. It is hard but I do think it is possible.