Much of what I write here comes down to this question. But when it came down answering it directly for an interview for my cousin’s class, I was surprised at how difficult it was to decide.
What matters most to me? Really, no less than a preservation of my child’s humanity. Her empathy. Her creativity. Her curiosity. Because only when she finds meaning for herself will the learning follow.
Cultivating humanity exists in the small details. Non-examples include choices such as:
- assigning worksheets that are excessive or developmentally inappropriate and then faulting children for being inattentive
- focusing more on the data and products than on the child
- consistently depending on extrinsic incentives instead of choosing to have the harder, ongoing conversations about broader, more intrinsic values
- honoring students’ agency by inviting them to the planning table for their own learning
- proactively working to communicate with families, not because we want behavior conversations to be less awkward, but because we want families to know we truly care about their children
- trusting students to monitor their own bathroom use
These are the kinds of approaches that send a clear message to students: you are valued. Your voice matters. You bring something unique to our group that cannot be replicated.
These messages matter not only for the sake of individual wellness (which is a worthy goal in itself), but for the sake of our collective future in an increasingly automated world. Realizing that “human beings are our most valuable resource” (as referenced in the recent article, “Educator: In Finland, I realized how ‘mean-spirited’ the U.S. education system really is”) should be of utmost importance in meeting the needs of the individual and the whole. (see also the great video Adam Hill shared in his post, “What are Soft Skills & Why do Students Need them More than Ever?“)
Going back to that interview, other questions posed included:
- What matters most to your child when they go to school?
- What is the most important quality for a classroom teacher to possess?
- What makes you the most nervous about sending your child to school?
- If your child misbehaves, how would you hope the teacher handles it?
- What rules are the most important for teachers to have?
- How should teachers best communicate with parents in regards to their child’s behavior?
What might happen if we use these kinds of questions as conversation-starters between teachers and families? How might collaborating to figure out what we hope school will accomplish impact our communities? And most importantly, how might seeking for understanding and connection help us cultivate humanity on the scale of the both the individual and the whole?
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto