"Why am I here?"
Educators, let's be honest. On any given day, we are in a room for an hour with twenty to forty people asking this question. They question why the content is relevant, they question why they need us to teach them this stuff that is readily available on Google. They question in an age of technology available anywhere, why they have to be here, in a room that most often feels sterile and cold despite the educators best efforts to give cinderblock life.
Educators, let's be honest. By day 100 (or maybe day two) we too are asking:
"Why am I here?"
I love teaching. I am in year four right now, and it is the best yet. I teach at a great school, with innovative administrators, and a great number of teachers who follow that lead. But that question still lingers for many teachers. They are questioning why they stick with a profession that is underpaid, undervalued, and dangerously close (in the students minds at least) to being replaced by a machine.
So, I started asking myself "Why am I here?" in a different way over the summer. Not in the negative "I could be doing something else" way, in the "How can I do this better?" way.
I recognized an important fact, that yes, our students can get a great deal of the content we share with them from the internet. So really, content is not why I am here.
Yep. Content is secondary, maybe even tertiary.
I am here primarily to help students learn HOW to deal with the content they learn. Google gives them information, not how to interact, interpret, analyze, formulate, and eloquently communicate that learning. I teach because I want to help students find a voice that communicates clearly, respectfully, and with new perspectives that challenge the status quo.
And I want them to do it with morality.
The above quote from Theodore Roosevelt has resonated with me for some time. I am not- nor do I think Roosevelt is- advocating that I teach a student a specific brand of morality other than perhaps the Golden Rule. "Treat others as you would want to be treated." I teach debate, psychology and sociology. My content is well known by my students. They possibly know more about sub-cultures and counter cultures than I do, because movements like Black Lives Matter are on the news all the time They know about politics (sort of) because it is an election year. But they often do not know how to communicate their feelings in a respectful, organized way. Because the people they see on TV, and on social media do not know how to communicate that way. Because Google doesn't teach us how to handle the information, just how to get it.
Enter the educator.
My classes start each day with student facilitated instruction. Students bring a topic of their choosing, current events for debate, review of content from the day before in the ologies. They communicate, they debate, they agree- and I observe, interject, and let them find their voice.
It is beautiful.
I am able to model, and let students model good communication, and even good vision casting. I am able to see students explore the world around them, and learn how to handle that information overload in a way that contains the morality of concern for others, and collaboration with their peers to learn.
I do not teach them what to think, but I must guide them as they learn HOW to think. To do this, I must build something with my students. Something stronger than content and perhaps even stronger than the "how."
If helping students learn how to handle information is primary, and content is tertiary, it is here that my secondary (and really, it is tied with the primary, honestly) purpose grows.
Educators are mentors, role-models, examples. We are to be a voice of compassion, understanding, and support. But we cannot do it the same way we have always done it. The world has changed, and so must we.
So we must help students own their learning. This is how I am trying that challenge. Now-
Why are you here?