In today’s world full of technology of all sorts, it is easy for people to feel that the role of teachers and traditional school is expendable and easy to replace. The Internet is a wonderfully powerful tool. Personally, I have felt in the past that I have learned a lot more through a three-minute YouTube video than I did from a two-hour lecture. Through Internet shows that I watch on a daily basis, such as The Young Turks, I am able to get caught up on a variety of news stories in a few quick minutes. This can serve as a quick form of research that I can do very easily.
While the Internet and technology can provide an endless possibility of answers for whatever needs the user may have, there are much greater intangibles that the classroom setting can provide. As I blogged about previously, an excerpt from Taylor Mali‘s book, “What Teachers Make“, paints a picture of what I feel is most important for school. A question every teacher is bound to face at one point or another is “When are we ever going to use this in real life?”
Mali, who is perhaps most well-known for his poem of the same name, states that “The answer is not what [the students] expect: never. These exact facts, figures, and problems? You’ll probably never need them. The real lesson here is the diligence, cooperation, resilience, flexibility, critical thinking, and problem solving you are actively using today. You will use those skills every time life presents you with something difficult or unexpected: obstacles in your personal life, accidents and catastrophes, lost jobs and loved ones. Working through those challenges is what matters most. When I’m teaching kids to work harder than they ever thought they could? That is what they will need every day of their lives.” (12)
In my opinion, this is why I feel school is important. The ethic this we, as educators, instill in our students is just as valuable as any academic content we deliver at the front of the room. Whether the students know it or not, they are learning much more than a math formula and how to conjugate verbs in French.
While students may never use the Pythagorean Theorem again in their lives, the skills and characteristics they have developed through completing their work will carry with them as soon as they leave the school doors.