I start every school year by asking my students a seemingly simple question: “Why do we go to school?”
We sit at the rug and discuss why they are at school. Their early kindergarten minds come up with answers such as “so that we can be smart and get good jobs and be rich,” or “so that I can read to my children one day,” or, often with a shrug, “because it is what we do.” I don’t tell my students the answer, my answer at least, but I lead them to thinking about it.
I ask them what they like about school so far. They will tell me things such as that they get to learn new things. I ask them what they hope to learn in their kindergarten year. They always tell me they want to learn how to read. I usually end up with a student who raises her hand and says she likes coming to school so she can know stuff. As a class, we decide that we come to school to learn.
I’m big on using call and response with my students, so I will ask the class, “Why do we come to school?” and they will all answer excitedly, “To learn!” I extend this thought even further by telling them that the reward to learning is learning. Again, I will ask them what the reward for learning is, and they all answer, “Learning!” As adults, we say education is good for its own sake. This is the same idea. We want our students to find the value in education.
We talk about this notion throughout the school year. Recently my students were having a tough time staying on task and being mindful in the lessons I was teaching. I decided to take time and have a family talk. We gathered at the rug, and we talked again about why we go to school. They told me we come to learn. I reminded them how powerful that is. I told them whatever they learn, whatever information they know, nobody can ever take away from them. I reminded them that in order to learn as much as possible, they have a job to do.
Their job is to come to school everyday and do their best job being ready to learn. They need to be mindful in their thinking. Their bodies might physically be there, but they need to be thinking about what I am teaching. I promise them if they do their job, I will do the best job I can teaching them. We don’t want our students forgetting the purpose of school, why we are there, and that is to learn.