The Purpose of Education

This post is my contribution to an ongoing project organized by purpos/ed, “a non-partisan, location-independent organization aiming to kickstart a debate around the question: What’s the purpose of education?“  It is an honor to have my post included among the other amazing bloggers that have also contributed their responses at http://purposed.org.uk/archives/.

The purpose of education is to help students develop a lifelong love of learning.

Don’t you remember what school was like at age 6 and 7? I do. I had teachers that liked to have us explore, play, laugh and smile. I wanted to go to school and I wanted to learn.

I see this in my second grader. There is no “boring”. There is no memorization of facts. She wants to research topics she interested in and report them to her classmates. She reads, write, draws, thinks and discusses.

What happened between 2nd and 3rd grade?

My 3rd grader's bookcase

An appreciation and love for learning at school is something that is absent from the life of my 3rd grader. At homework time, she says:

  • Mom, I can’t draw my comic figures for this report, I have to do it the right way.
  • Mom, I can’t ask my teacher that, she might get mad at me.
  • Mom, I can’t use the computer for my spelling lists, I have to do this worksheet.
  • Mom, I can’t read that book, I have to read this one.
  • Mom, I hate homework.
  • Mom, I don’t like school
  • Mom, school is boring.

It goes on everyday, seven days a week. (Yes, she has homework seven days a week.)

What should we do? Or, how can we help? (Or what should I do and how can I help?)

Do our pre-service and in-service teachers getting enough experience, training and time for:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-awareness
  • The ability to reflect

Because if we can encourage all of this in our teachers, there is a glimmer of hope that they will model them well for our children.

I admit I am critical of those that work with my two girls. Shouldn’t I be? But, I acknowledge that perhaps some are not prepared in the sense that their education and experiences didn’t give them the opportunities to develop enthusiasm, empathy, respect, self-confidence, self-awareness and the ability to reflect.

We need passionate teachers. We need to cultivate a love of learning in all our students. I believe that before test scores rise, more children graduate from high school, and more graduates go to college, we need to focus on the purpose of education – nurturing a love of learning.

Casual Chit Chat with the Family over the Weekend

Source: Allposters.com
Source: Allposters.com

I’m beginning to think that I am not capable of casual chit chat when it comes to talking about children and education.

I don’t remember how the topic of conversation came up, but I was with some of my family over the weekend and one of my relatives was speaking about a local school district and how they can’t seem to hire and retain any quality teachers. He was questioning what the issue was with the administration and why after all these years of receiving additional funding from the government for teacher salaries, students still are not scoring well on the tests.

Pause. Breathe…Lisa…Maybe this is not the time and place to talk about all the… OH FORGET IT!!!

Maybe, just maybe, I was able to tweak this relative’s view on public education a little bit as I talked about the student population of this specific district. I spoke of how most of these students came from foreign countries where formal schooling was not common place. They had to take the State standardized tests, possibly before they even had a handle on the English language. By the time they were finally getting into a routine at school, making friends, adjusting to the schedule, their family would find jobs elsewhere and relocate. The test scores that were published in the local newspaper were not indicative of the time, effort, skill, ability and knowledge of the students or the teachers in the district, merely, the situation of that given day.

The response…”Huh? I didn’t know that. I never thought about it that way.”

I don’t know how I thought he would respond. The others in the general vicinity kind of slinked away. Perhaps I may have ranted a bit.

We went on to talk a bit about Universal Design for Learning (UDL)  and how I’ve been working with schools and educators in NJ on implementing that framework in their classrooms. We talked about being flexible and accommodating students needs. I gave him examples of my own children needing accommodations in their classrooms and situations of when they got them and when they didn’t.

My concern was that the chit chat at my family gathering last weekend just happened to have two sides to the story. It doesn’t always. Many people, including taxpayers, are making judgements on our fellow educators that are placed in near-impossible positions. I wish I could do more to help people visualize what’s going on in today’s classrooms.