Learn to Live

It is a fallacy to assume that the school teacher is just an academic educator. If our role was solely to develop lesson plans, teach content, mark assessments and report on students’ ability levels in a subject area, then our job would be relatively easy. As it happens though, students (much like the rest of us) are not Econs, but humans. They are developing, young individuals, prone to error and emotion.

The students who walk into my classroom each day are not just learning how to manipulate linear equations or find an unknown angle in a triangle, but they are learning how to interact with those around them and how to live.

Incidentally, at the first two schools I attended when growing up, the mottos were Learn to Live and Learn and Live. These were an explicit acknowledgement of the holistic teaching that took place to assist in my growth and development.

I began writing this post this morning, and since then have attended a PD on positive behaviour management by Jo Lange. Jo emphasised the important role that teachers have, not in tutoring individual or small groups of students, but in teaching them. This is a careful distinction: for students to succeed in future workplaces and in relationships with their colleagues and their communities, they must be responsible for their behaviour and learning. It is not the role of the teacher to hover, attending to their every need.

Too often, we as teachers are trying to set students up for a tunnel vision ideal of academic success, working to provide the perfect learning conditions. I know that I am guilty of this – unquestionably and without hesitation providing students with pens, for example, so that they at least do not have an excuse for not doing their work. After all, why should a lack of equipment be a reason not to learn?

As the teacher, what I am doing however, is saying that content learning must be given primacy, and as such, I am neglecting some basic life skills that these students must develop (namely, responsibility and organisation). Even in maths classes, I am not teaching maths, I am teaching students. If a student cannot prioritise bringing a pen to class after they have been practising being a student for sometimes over a decade, what use is that algebra equation going to be?

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