Educators often say they want to prepare students for life after school. This usually entails trying to pass on concrete skills related to work and production. This week I was reminded that there are also other aspects of life that students need to learn how to deal with, namely the emotional highs and the lows of life. I like to think of this as “the pleasure and the pain” of living. Through living we experience events that make us incredibly happy and incredibly sad. These events are often the ones that mark us the most. My question today is how are we preparing our students to deal with the great and not so great events in life?
There have been two events that have made me think about this question in past week. Event one was the start of school. The smiling faces and positive energy made this a great event. There was a genuine positive outlook in the building that made me feel like we could achieve anything. Event two was the funeral of a former colleague. This was emotionally draining and very sad. Both the highs and the lows of this week made me think of the ways that I have been taught to deal with extreme ends of the emotional continuum. Did anyone really talk to me about ways to deal with sad moments in my life, as they did on how to edit an essay? I really can’t say they did.
I do not have answers to this question, but I am thinking about character education and psychological well-being for our students and society.
To me, September has always felt like the start of the year. It seems to be the point where I look at the whole year ahead and think about the changes I want to make. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do make September resolutions. Here are two that I have made this year.
First resolution: get my students connected to the world. One thing that I find motivates students to learn is when they are able to see how concepts we are learning about apply outside of school. I am going to work hard to get my students to see and experience the concepts I teach outside of school. So far, I have made contact with a Sports Editor to Skype with my students about writing. Others ideas are still coming.
Second resolution: To remove barriers on how students demonstrate their learning. There was a time when I was quite particular about the activities that students could do to show me they had met the outcomes of a course. When it comes down to it, I needed to ask myself if the format was important or if student understanding was important. I chose understanding. I am hoping that flexibility in format will allow students to focus on the outcomes we are targeting.
I read an article saying that if you share your resolutions with others they are more likely to stick as people keep you accountable. I guess this would qualify. I’ll try to give an update later in the year to tell you how my September resolutions are going.