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The purpose of school

What is the purpose of school? Despite the fact that this is my fifth year of teaching, this question, when posed to me in my administration program, sent my head for a spin. Topics bombarded me with an unrelenting urgency: subject matter, pedagogy, English, behavior plans, math, citizenship, science, basic survival skills. I quickly realized just how much teaching entails.

In furthering my research, I decided to go to the most honest human beings I know, my middle-school students. I asked them a series of questions through a journal entry, which included what they thought the purpose of school was, why they think we teach the things we do in school, and what they wish they ideally learned in school.

For the most part, the students’ overall answers were that the purpose of school is to become educated so they can go to college and get a decent job. Some of them did say that they thought the purpose was to know about world events and other topics they will undoubtedly need to know while they inhabit this planet.

However, many students didn’t really seem to answer <i>why</i> they thought we taught certain subjects in school. The ones who did address this topic mentioned the importance of literacy, and almost all the other answers were geared toward how we needed to first learn how to succeed in junior high and high school before we enter college and careers.

Students also expressed interest in, for lack of a better term, basic survival skills. Would they be good parents one day; how do they pay rent; what do they do when their heart gets broken for the first time. Many of these questions made me realize why I became a teacher – to be there for these kids.


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