If all schools suddenly went away, we’d still have to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, and exist in society. Sometimes I think if I didn’t have the core curriculum and paperwork holding me down I’d fly off the face of the planet. It seems to me the purpose of school is to teach students lessons that they will one day be able to apply in their lives and the lives of their children. I once heard a story about a farmer who was conversing with a special education teacher. The teacher was talking about the millions if not billions of times he had to go over something before the students, “got it.” The farmer scratched his head and replied, “Well, if it’s so hard for them to learn, I hope you don’t teach them nuthin’ stupid.” The guy had a point…..and I got into farming……………….uh………., only to supplement my teaching income.
The impact this all had on me was to make me aware that, no matter what the students’ cognitive levels are, they are headed straight for an adulthood (generally high schoolers will get there before elementary kids!) of trying to get by, if not thrive, in society. I try and teach my classes in a way that will prepare students for the world they will inherit once school is over. My classroom world consists of all the perils and opportunities you and I face in our lives outside of our schools. I teach math in a hypothetical economy based on real income and expense possibilities. My kids earn “minimum wage” and can be fired or promoted, depending on their effort, performance, and (would that it wasn’t so) chance. Try explaining to students that they have a big health expense just because they had bad luck! Yet, it happens all the time. We might as well be prepared for surprises. My kids rent their desks at a rate similar to the rate of Conover 1-bdrm appts. They pay for clothes at real prices, many choosing thrift stores because, well, they are making minimum wage. I’ve even been known to have different neighborhoods in my classroom. I had country club kids and park bench kids. Talk about some social studies lessons! The country clubbers often crashed and burned when they couldn’t afford what they thought they needed. (It amazes me how much some of our students take for granted and feel entitled to, just by virtue of being alive.) This year I intend to introduce taxes into math. My students will take on government roles in social studies. That should be interesting! It may be a stretch but, to my way of thinking, it’s the only way to become flexible!
— Michael, Townsley, NCCS 2013-14 Teacher of the Year