What is School For?

We’ve been told that if we want to be productive citizens, we must wear a grin and jump through the educational hoops until we can get to where we’re going. Too often, the answer to why we have to go to school is: “Because.” Why are there always mysterious reasons for the purpose of school? Asking why people need to go to school and graduate is a valid question that schooladults should not shove to the side and categorize as irrelevant.  

I’ve been struggling to write a personal statement for job applications because I’ve been grappling with central issues I will face every day as a teacher. In the midst of this struggle, I realized I hadn’t worked out in my mind the answer to “what is school for?” After several freewrites, I feel confident enough to share my seven key components of why education is important:

1. HOW TO THINK INDEPENDENTLY

The primary reason for school institutions is not to detain students until they have grown into adults. Instead, these institutions must teach students how to learn independently and develop a mind of their own, so to say. I plant to equip students with the necessary skills so that they will be able to learn on their own. After all, I’m concerned with what will happen to students once they leave my classroom. The tricky piece of this equation is how to get students motivated to become innovative and independent learners.

2. CHALLENGE

It is not enough for students to be challenged merely with assigned reading, assignments, or projects. Teachers should also respectfully challenge the perspectives of students. There is value in exploring why you think what you think and why you believe what you believe. If teachers don’t encourage students to defend their viewpoints or develop a stance, people will remain apathetic and ignorant.

3. LEARN FROM EXPERTS

It’s strange to say that I will soon become a sort of expert in the field of English. Although I admit that there are many topics in English I am by no means an expert on, I am more qualified to teach English than many other people. The beauty of education is that the teachers are qualified, providing students with a developmentally appropriate education.

4. DEVELOP USEFUL HABITS

I may not be a mathematician, but there was value in learning how to show work in Algebra II. I appreciated organization and documentation when I had to review my work due to a wrong answer. Some of the habits or skills taught in school have little to no apparent benefit but that does not mean that the habits or skills will not become helpful later down the road.

5. LIFE SKILLS

My education has taught me that it’s okay to be confused. I have accepted that I do not know all of the right answers and that’s okay. When in life does anyone have all the right answers, anyway? Even textbook answers have typos. Students educated at an institution have access to a variety of resources for their benefit.

6. SOCIAL SKILLS

School is an excellent opportunity for a variety of people to interact and work alongside one another. Teachers need to encourage students to become diverse, not only in their thinking but also in their associations with others.

7. CORE KNOWLEDGE

There is a common core of knowledge that people should know; there is vital information necessary to learn about. The challenge to educators is making the vital information useful, relatable, and helpful to students.

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