We All Play a Part

So I received an email this past week from a former student of mine who wanted to check in and catch up. He’s just now finishing his degree in sports medicine, and at the end of the message he thanked me for playing a part in his success, and for helping him grow into the man that he has become. It was a beautiful and emotional letter, and it got me thinking about the part that we all play as educators in the lives of our students as they slowly grow into themselves. He wrote appreciatively about how the school had provided him with opportunities to shine, as well as avenues outside of the classroom to discover and develop his love of helping others and giving back to the community. He found his passion and his spark with the help of his teachers and the many school programs that were offered, and he eventually married the two things that he loved the most to find a vocation that he’s desperate to begin…and I wondered…isn’t that what education is all about?

Coincidentally, on the same day that I received his message, I opened up the latest Marshall Memo and I read an article written by Marc Prensky, where he discusses the true goal of education. Prensky writes that “the real goal of education, and of school, is becoming—becoming a “good” person and becoming a more capable person than when you started”. I thought about this statement carefully, and I have to say that I agree with it almost to a fault. I used this article to take stock of the opportunities and avenues that we are currently providing our own Middle School kids, and I have to say that I like where we are. Let’s look at the programs that we offer to our students, which will no doubt help them find their passions, and their sparks, and the road that will lead them to the person that they will eventually become. Programs like Model United Nations, the Global Issues Network, Math Counts, the National Junior Honor Society, our Leadership/Student Council, the Student Run Television initiative, our Outdoor Education Program, the creative writing club, our robust service learning program, our character education focus and advisory program, and all the rest. By providing meaningful opportunities for our students to discover their passions, and to find success, we are essentially helping them grow and discover and work to find their best selves…and “become” who’ll they’ll eventually be as adults.

Like Prensky goes on to say in the article, this in no way diminishes the incredibly important academic learning that happens in classrooms throughout the year, or in their daily lessons, he just thinks that “knowing stuff is hardly today’s ambition for most of us or our kids”. He also writes how “very few educators or parents have learning or scholarship in their hearts as the endgame for their children, except in the sense of their kids’ getting good grades. Most of us would prefer our children become the very best people they can be, capable of effective thinking, acting, relating, and accomplishing in whatever field they enjoy and have a passion for”. This is exactly why I am so proud of our current faculty…you are not simply “classroom teachers” of a particular subject, you are coaches and mentors and surrogate mothers and fathers and role models and inspirations. You play such an important role in the “becoming” of our kids, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch everyday.

When I think back to last week’s China Trips, this idea is brought to life in a very real way. I watched our students interact outside of the normal school setting, and I saw them explode into themselves. I watched them come to life as they held and played with the kids at Bright Connections (Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome), I saw them push their limits and challenge themselves on their hikes and when they camped in the rain forest, I saw them take risks and stretch themselves out of their comfort zones, and I saw glimpses of who they might become as adults…man, I wish I had a crystal ball! Of course if I did, the message that I received from my former student the other day, and the messages that I know that you have all received over the years from yours, wouldn’t be as meaningful. We all play such an important role in the lives of our kids, and when they “become” adults, and go on to set the world on fire, we can share in their success knowing that we played a meaningful part and helped to truly pave the road…I would suggest that there’s no better feeling than that for an educator…that’s what it’s all about! Have a wonderful week everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
The things that make me different are the things that make me, well…ME!
– Winnie the Pooh

Attachment – What’s the True Goal of Education? (Marshall Memo) What’s the True Goal of Education
Marc Prensky Article –
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/06/30prensky_ep.h33.html?qs=the+goal+of+education+is+becoming
TED Talk – The Drive to Keep Creating (Elizabeth Gilbert)
http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_success_failure_and_the_drive_to_keep_creating
Interesting Articles –
http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/how-to-ignite-passion-in-your-students-8-ways-educators-can-foster-passion-based-learning/
http://seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/3515/fostering-passion-&-purpose-in-your-students-and-schools.aspx
http://www.edutopia.org/classroom-student-participation-tips
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct12/vol70/num02/Practices-to-Engage-All-Learners.aspx
http://cte.udel.edu/instructional-topics/engaging-students.html
http://www.washington.edu/teaching/teaching-resources/engaging-students-in-learning/

2 Comments

  1. Norman said:

    Honestly, this is a BRILLIANT article.

    May 19, 2014
    Reply
  2. Chris Akin said:

    Dan, thanks for this reflection. I found myself nodding again and again. Sometimes you hear something or read something that is just … the truth! Thanks for sharing and reinvigorating us all to help our kids find their “element” or “sweet spot” – that marriage of passion, skills and deep appreciation.
    Chris Akin

    Av. Las Palmeras 325
    Camacho – La Molina

    May 19, 2014
    Reply

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