top of page

If School Is Not 'The Real World,' What Is It?

Am I the only person who gets annoyed when teachers or other education professionals say to students anything that follows this statement, "In the real world ..."?

Perhaps what they are trying to articulate is "in the adult world," but by diminishing the world they currently exist in, we fail to capitalize on a tremendous opportunity of authenticity and transparency.

School is "the real world" for children between the ages of 4-18. It may not be a paying job, but it is a job nonetheless. Every day is filled with learning, reflecting, practicing, and preparing for their futures.

What isn't real about that?

The learning opportunity, especially in this formal setting, is training for a life that comes following. Whether the workforce or college, students must be prepared with the real-life experiences they encounter in school.

For example:

  • Collaboration with peers (which has become a staple in most learning experiences): Kids learn to work together to solve problems and innovate in classrooms across curricula. They demonstrate an understanding of skills and application across content areas.

  • Self-awareness and reflection: Students spend time thinking about themselves as learners and can accurately pinpoint strengths and challenges, and more importantly, learn to ask for help.

  • They encounter unpleasant life experiences which they will have to learn to navigate because life isn't always awesome. Whether it be a bully or a teacher they don't agree with or other students, students need to learn how to get their needs met in meaningful ways and sometimes that means coping skills.

  • They will experience successes that will make them feel like they can do anything, propelling them forward into a world that will either embrace their innovation or shun it. Hopefully, we will teach them to be self-confident and resilient to be successful in both environments.

  • There will be workloads, some of what they like, and some of what they don't, but they will learn to handle both and complete what needs to be done. Sometimes they will learn this by failing, making mistakes, and correcting them. This will teach them to keep moving forward, learning, and growing.

  • There will be times of celebration and fun, field trips, and connecting that they will never forget. The foundation of their lives is built on their experiences with us. So let it be a sturdy foundation, appropriate for each child.

  • Technology will be meaningfully used for learning and for fun. Students will learn to navigate when each is appropriate.

  • Interests will be explored and developed, so exposure to a variety of things is essential to help students see the possibilities. Remember their experience with you may make or break their love of your content, so make it an experience.

  • Boredom will happen because not all students love all things. They will need to learn how to entertain themselves productively when they don't want to be engaged.

  • Relationships are developed and cultures are fostered. Students will experience this in college and the workplace and their lives. The way we learn to interact with our peers begins here and we can cultivate amazing experiences.

And the list can go on. Every day we spend time with children and young adults during the workday hours. They develop routines and learn important life lessons.

So what's not real about that?

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in June 2015

45 views0 comments


bottom of page