There Were No Good Ol’ Days

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Mar
  • 28
  • 2006

I’m starting to think that the most difficult, but most pleasing, part of a teacher’s job falls under the category of building connections. Course content and life after school need relation and students need to see that relation. While the links may be weak at times, those connections should be the only reason we teach what we teach. The necessity of pandering to state content standards and standardized tests throws an interesting dynamic into the conversation and makes it challenging for a teacher to see the reach from the classroom to the greater world. But at the end of it all, we really teach material to prepare students for life.

We don’t teach material simply to fill time (well, occasionally we do, but that’s only because we’re human, too, and don’t always prepare like we should). We don’t teach material only because it’s in the book and we have copies of it. We don’t teach material just because it’s been taught for 50 years. We don’t teach material because we had to sit through those lessons as a student, too.

Reasons To Teach What You Teach

If the only reason to assign a research paper is to prepare students to write more research papers, then there’s really no reason to assign a research paper. The other reasons that exist for assigning a research paper need to be clear and we need to show students how to extend classroom skills into their lives.

Teachers often find themselves locked into teaching something without knowing why. Why teach Romeo and Juliet? If you don’t know, how will that impact your lesson plans? If the only reason you’re teaching it is because it’s on the required reading list, how enthusiastic can you expect your students to be? Do you know why you are teaching what you are teaching right now? Can you see how it will be applicable outside academia?

Course Content That Matters

This presents a possible solution to massive failure rates and student apathy: create course content that matters. If you’re teaching out of a 1976 teacher’s guide or using the same lecture notes you wrote up 10 years ago or lecturing for the entire class period every day, you are part of the problem. The solution lies in realizing that today’s world is not the same world that the current education system was designed to interact with. When society changes, education must change with it. Too often, we simply pine away about the good ol’ days instead.

There were no good ol’ days; things are always getting better. There’s just the tendency to romanticize and to want security in consistency. Go read Catcher In The Rye again and think hard about how badly you want everything to stay the same. Is it such a good idea?

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