Swetha, Teacher, NYC
Imagine one of your students 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 think what would make it a good life for this student is as long as she’s happy and happy doing what she wants to do. I think what would also be good for her… Well, I am also thinking from her mom’s perspective. Her mom wants for her to have a better life than she had. And that’s why she pushes her in academics, and I understand that. But I think, in this day and age, it ultimately depends on the child’s happiness. For me I would want her to be in a safe situation and safe place. For me I would want her to be financially safe and probably even liberal with her finances so that she’s able to travel the world and experience those types of experiences. Ultimately I would just want her to do what she wants to do and just enjoy life."
Do you think everyone agrees with you about what a good life is?
"I don’t think so. I think everyone has a different perspective of what a good life is. I do think ultimately everyone does think happiness to an extent. I think a lot of people would like financial freedom."
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
"The role of schooling is to broaden children’s horizons. It is to prepare them for living life. I think it is important for children to know the history so that negative history doesn’t repeat itself, for children to be able to choose what they want to do with their lives by exposing them to different types of career options. I think education should encompass everything, and it definitely should be honest about where the future is going. I think we can only make a projection of where the future is going, but I know it is going in the direction of more technology, so making sure children are more technologically savvy so they are prepared to be using technology in the future and in their positions. But I think education should ultimately relate to what a child might want to do in the future."
Do you think schools are currently playing that role and doing what they should for children?
"I think a small group of schools might be doing that. I don’t think all schools are doing that. Like in terms of encompassing everything, I am also thinking about character education. Are we teaching children to be kind people but also stand their ground if they need to and have that balance? I can only speak for my school. I think my school is moving into the direction of being all-encompassing, but we are not there yet. In terms of the texts we read, I wish they would apply more to the children. For example, if there is a test that we are taking and the scholars are reading a passage on children who live in the suburbs and are building a campfire outside, inner-city kids don’t have that experience. Well, not all of them. But most likely they won’t have that experience and be able to relate to that situation unless they were able to experience that type of situation. So I think texts that can relate to the children we are working with but that still challenge them so that they are growing [are important]. I am not sure if schools are going in that direction. I want to say no. I do think schools could do a better job. I think it has a lot to do with funding. For example, if schools want to provide a laptop for every single child, they are going to need funding for that or someone who will be able to sponsor or invest so that kids can have laptops. Or, funding to be able provide students with the experience of camping outside. Inner-city kids should go camping so they can experience what that is like."
If schools aren’t, how do we get there? What do you think should we do?
"There’s actually this company that every Monday or Tuesday, once a week, they have a thought group. They throw out these ideas that could be crazy ideas that you wouldn’t imagine coming into fruition. But you have this forum where you can throw out these ideas and then you get into teams and you work on making the idea a reality. I think that is one way that schools can do this. I think another way is going into the government and making sure schools have enough funding to be able to purposefully get students different types of experiences. We could do this through field trips. We could do it through curriculum. I think having more resources in schools would be also be helpful, such as appropriate documentaries for children that are actually interesting. A lot of it comes from funding but a lot of it comes from taking the risk and trying it out."
What is the purpose of education?
"The role of schooling should be getting children an opportunity. I think it is all about opportunity. So if we are not providing them with a quality education, we are not providing them the opportunity to succeed. So teachers need to be well-trained. You can’t just through in a new teacher and have them teach an entire class by themselves. There should be teacher-in-training programs where the teacher-in-training shadows a quality teacher and then starts to get integrated into the teaching role. I think that would be helpful in ensuring quality teaching. I think a lot of schools should start looking into that model. But I think the quality of education is important. If students are just doing packets and we are not following up with them or showing them how to solve problems in different ways, then we are not actually doing our jobs as teachers."