There is one thing, though, which never fails to bring real consolation to me in moments of stress, doubt, or wondering “what is it all for?” The obvious answer, for many teachers, is, of course, their students and the relationships they build with them over the years. This is true of myself as well, but recently my thoughts have dwelt on the everyday interactions, the words my students say, the things they notice, and the things they speak surreptitiously to each other in the back of class when they think, foolishly, that I cannot hear them.
The goal of students’ education is not perfection, nor is it merely practical skills and good grades. The goal is not even getting an amazing job or getting into the right college. The goal is for students to appreciate what is true, good, and beautiful in the subjects they learn, so they can see what is true, good, and beautiful in their lives.
Envision classroom discussions beaming with student involvement, where curious minds are posing thoughtful questions and attentive peers respond with their own hypotheses, solutions, ideas, and extension questions. How do you build a classroom culture that facilitates this level of engagement and willingness to inquire authentically and share ideas courageously?
Pedagogy and classroom management are necessary, but they are always in service of a higher thing. That higher thing—cultivating within students the wonder and love of learning—ought always to come first. That, then, must also be the end of the education of the teacher when they themselves are students.
Today there is confusion about the role of the teacher. It stems from a larger confusion about the role of education in the life of the student. The unfortunate truth is that education is seen primarily as a kind of job training, reducing students to receptacles for information and teachers to its delivery system.