The school is a microcosm of the real world. Most teacher’s often misunderstand the essence of this ideology. I’ve been guilty of misdirecting the essential purpose of the school in the past. Erroneously reminding students that school’s purpose is merely for preparation. I’ve heard teachers tell students, “you won’t be able to act like this when you get out into the real world.” I remember teacher’s giving their pithy advice to young me, saying, “in the real world, you won’t be able to dress like that, you know.” Side note: I wish they could see me now.
And that’s not so side of a note because when I teach in classrooms I am in the real world. The school is important because it serves as a social institution. But we tend to slip into thinking that the intention of schooling––regardless of level––is to prepare students for socialization. Our thoughts turn to actions. We then operate contingently on student production as it relates to student potential. We approach education––teaching and learning––as practice for the real game. When, in fact, teaching and learning is the real game.
And what’s more troubling is that it is our ideas surrounding the dichotomy of student production and student potential that determines everything inside of schools. From class structure, to the modes of teaching, to the things and actions and the whats and the who’s that are valued, to value itself. Because we frame school as a preparation ground for future living, we lose the ability to ground the actual potential of learning in real time.
I know it’s important for educators to focus on details. Equally valuable is to teach in a way that gives students the best opportunities for success––both in the moment and moving forward. But when we get lost inside of the building and lose sight of the outside world, we cannot slip into thinking that we are actually outside of reality. We are experiencing reality: continuously reconstructing its meaning from class period to class period.
Essentially, when we teach it is important to keep in mind that we are doing so in a space that does not exist outside of the real world. Therefore, our purpose as educators––so called conduits of information and knowledge––is to value the process as much as we value the product.