Learning To Teach and Teaching To Learn

Education is an enlightening experience. To be enlightened is to learn, understand something, and know how it works. Throughout history, learning has gradually come from figuring something out, and perhaps from being mentored by someone, to learning in a formal school setting. Things that have been taught in school settings have evolved over the years, but some core skills have stayed the same. A student has always learned how to read, write, and do math. Eventually, there were classes that would teach metal work, how to work on a car, how to carve wood, and how to sow and cook. But in recent years, these classes that taught skills have been cut from schools. Teachers, who once were free to teach the subject how they wanted, are now under strict guidelines for how to teach. And students, who once had a strong understanding of each subject, are now being passed through the grades with very little understanding of them. Teachers in public schools must teach in accordance with government mandated guidelines, so teachers are feeling unmotivated, students have been passed through a grade without proper education, and students are not learning proper life lessons to take on life.

The public school system is something that once represented quality education, discipline, and structure. It meant men and women who had a passion for teaching would instruct the youth on how to be properly prepared for life. Now it is a place of stress for both students and faculty. Students have been allowed to get away with more disruptive behavior. This causes class time to be ill spent. When one anonymous teacher had a disruptive student removed from the class, the school blamed the teacher for the student’s behavior—the school declared it was because the teacher was not assigning “challenging” or “proper” enough amounts of homework (Secret Teacher). The teacher was then required to do unpaid tutoring hours with the student – this was believed to motivate the student. In the end, the teacher felt time was being ill spent, helping a student who did not care about education. The teacher also felt frustrated because, not only was precious time that could have been spent grading other students’ homework wasted, that wasted time was also unpaid time. The school directors did not know that the student was a disruptive pupil and would throw things during class. All the school was concerned about was what the student’s parents would say, instead of considering the rest of the class. With this being done, and the teacher not being able to teach how s/he wanted, the teacher ended up becoming completely unmotivated about school and the role as an educator. As the teacher put it:

Teaching is not just a profession, it is a life choice. I was aware of this before I committed to the job. However, so dictatorial has it become in its assumption that we are all dedicated philanthropists that it is sapping any enjoyment out of the job. Two years in, and I’m throwing in the towel to become part of the growing statistic of dropouts. You see, I never wanted to be a social activist. I just wanted to teach English. (“Secret Teacher”)

This is the sad reality of how many teachers are feeling in the school system today. Tired and unmotivated.

The public school system was once a symbol of quality education. Education is, and always should, be viewed as an “enlightening experience.” But too many students are no longer being given the opportunity to have that enlightening experience – yet they are being told that they are receiving it. Students are being told they can entrust their educational experience to men and women known as “teachers.” The problem here is that, while in the classroom, teachers are the only ones learning throughout the school day. Most of what adults and children learn that is life-applicable is learned while at home and during leisure time “Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught” (“The Objective”). Some of the most important (but viewed as simple) things that a person performs – such as getting dressed, talking, reading, and eating – are learned as a child. Learned, not taught. What mostly goes on in a student’s mind while in school is memorization. Not learning.

To “learn” is to fully understand something and carry on that understanding throughout life. But to “memorize” information in school is to simply remember some steps that make no sense but simply allow for the student to pass a test. Memorization will only stay with a student for a short while, but will quickly escape the student’s mind, and the information will never be used again. So far, teaching seems to be a more efficient way to learn “Teaching enables the teacher to discover what one thinks about the subject being taught. Schools are upside down: Students should be teaching and faculty learning.” In the modern school system, the student’s main source of information from the teacher. But that is not how it always was – “In the one-room schoolhouse, students taught students. The teacher served as a guide and a resource but not as one who force-fed content into students’ minds.” This is unfortunately the truth of how schools are now. Students are expected to learn everything they need to know for life from the same group of teachers who are learning the subject at the same time as the students are. And in the end, it is only the teachers who are truly learning anything during those eight hours of school.

One of the best methods of learning is experience. To experience something and then to understand it is a better “teacher” than a teacher. People have always had the capability to learn and would manage to learn. People were learning long before schools were established. The way professions were taught in the past was through apprenticeships. To be an apprentice, a person at a young age would go, and train under an established expert in whatever craft was being performed. The apprentices would eventually become the master themselves and train another in their footsteps. They learned from experience, from doing something themselves, and from an expert in the subject, not from a teacher who was learning at the same time as they were.

Students should also make more of an effort to learn on their own. Instead of students being taught to rely on others to teach them, they should be taught – from as early as the first grade – “that learning how to learn is largely their responsibility— with the help they seek but that is not imposed on them.” The most efficient form of education is being put to use on the teachers instead of the students.

The school system has put unfair regulations on teachers, causing teachers to lose their motivation and drive to teach. Even if the teachers keep their enthusiasm, they are not passing it on to their students by teaching them to teach themselves. The few memorable things that students retain are not life-relevant concepts that will make them smarter or wiser in their daily lives. Students are being exposed to mature subjects too early that lead them to make age-inappropriate decisions instead of being given proper education and guidance on how to teach themselves to prepare for life-choices. A short list of things students are not being taught in school but will need to function in their daily adult lives consists of the following: critical thinking, face-to-face conversation, how to wisely handle money, and firm understanding of the structure and constitutional function of the government. How are students not being taught to prepare themselves for adult life? When it comes to thinking,

The stakes are high in our duties and responsibilities in life. The decisions we make have real-world consequences, some immediate, and some delayed, affecting ourselves and others. Making the right choices could literally mean the difference between happiness and remorse, success and failure, and so on. We need to be equipped with the ability to think through scenarios and situations which inevitably arise in our lives, not only for the sake of successful endeavors, but also for the sake of being wise for its own sake.

Education ties into this seamlessly since it is

generally pragmatic, wherein the educators test students on specific data, and as such students will learn the specific data just for the test, often by rote memorization. Too often, then, students are not taught how to think through to solutions; even in math, formulas are memorized and the numbers plugged-in to the formula without an understanding of the formula’s formation and what it is solving for, and what are real scenarios it’s applicable to. Learning about Logical Consequence is a good place to start. […] Avoiding self-referential incoherency leads to thinking that is consistent with itself. (Akins)

memorization is not the key, learning is however.

The other skill that students now lack is the skill of face-to-face conversation. Conversation will always be used in life. There are so many times every single day that conversation is held – with siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, teachers, and spouses. But with this generation’s over-saturation in social media and other technologies, the greatest irony has become a reality. Instead of being known as the most out-spoken generation, it has come to be known as the “Silent Generation.” This is because there are less and less face-to-face interactions compared to digital ones, and schools are not endorsing the education of traditional social skills and

in so doing, their personal communication skills are being hindered. The broader outcome could be social isolation, arrested social development, and not learning from the common lot of other’s experiences and mistakes who are their age and older, which could stifle a person in various ways and potentially become a barrier to rewarding careers and the full enjoyment of relationships. Knowing how to connect with others, being empathetic, when to speak and when to listen, is of great value in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships. To learn the art of conversation is to actually do it, with peers and other varied and diverse people.

Talking is a necessity in life today.

Another life skill that is being dangerously under-taught in public schools is how to handle money. Handling money is very important. There is much more to handling money than just owning a business. One must learn how to balance a check book, how to budget, to have a savings account and retirement savings. Students should be taught how to self-manage their money and how to be self-employed. They need also to be taught how to pay taxes and bills, and most important of all, how to avoid gaining debt. Unfortunately, the only way to learn these skills is by attending extracurricular activities. These are skills that all people should know how to perform before graduating high school.

Another subject that schools have lacked to properly teach is how the United States government works. Students are dangerously unaware of the fact that the government works for them, and not the other way around. Students have been raised under the notion that they do not have much say on what goes on with the government – and that the only time they do is when it is time to vote. But even how, where, and what to vote for is not taught to students in school.

In certain classes we are taught the Bill of Rights, but how these broad rights actually apply to us in day-to-day practice is usually not covered. It is important as a citizen to know and practice your rights when appropriate, and enjoy the freedoms that the U.S. has to offer. It is also beneficial to be involved in politics, from the federal to the local levels, and be aware of who the politicians are, such as the senators representing your state and the mayor of your city.

For students to not be informed about their own government while in school should be much more seriously looked at and corrected. America has always been known as the land of the free, that it belongs to its people – not one group of individuals who make laws that only benefit themselves. If Americans do not take charge of their own freedom and rights, then others will. And America will no longer be the land of the free.

The public school system and education, once an icon for proper and quality education for young adolescents has slowly changed over the years. Teachers that were once allowed to be in charge of their classrooms and their students are now becoming discouraged and have lost their enthusiasm to educate. This is because schools are putting unfair restrictions on teachers and forcing them to work with students who do not care about their schooling experience. Time spent in the class is no longer time spent teaching students; instead, students are memorizing what they need to know to pass a test, and the teachers are the only ones who are truly learning in a life-enhancing way. This is mostly because the teacher, as well as the student, is hearing about the subject being taught for the first time in the classroom. Students need more hands on experiences like in the days of old when young men and women would become apprentices until they became a master of the craft being studied. Then, on top of students not learning in general, schools are no longer teaching students valuable life skills, such communication skills, critical thinking, financial literacy, and healthy citizen-government relationships. This means students are becoming more and more socially isolated, financially unstable, intellectually starved, and unhealthily distant from their civic duties. These are not observations. These are facts of what is happening right now. It is happening in public school systems across the nation. So, for the sake of America’s students and future citizens, it is time to make schools great again. It is time to stop breathing down the necks of teachers and forcing them to adhere to curricula and schedules that are not working. It is time to let teachers teach students how to learn on their own by teaching themselves. It is time to empower the next generation to become “the” next generation. It is time.