For the past month, one of my classes has been working on an anti-trafficking campaign to raise awareness of slavery in Canada. The last couple weeks haven’t gone well. For reasons I don’t really want to get into at this point, we’ve put the project on the shelf. But now what? Going back to how we used to do school doesn’t seem like a great idea.
What do I mean by that? Learning about great individuals who chose to make a difference in the world, but not doing anything like that ourselves. Learning content and skills to jump through the hoops we call a secondary education, creating assignments that only I’ll ever see — an education that has little current impact on the world outside our four walls. It’s the way a large part of our North American school system currently functions.
The thing is, I don’t want to return to that. Everything inside of me loathes this idea. I want my students to make a difference in this world, for them to use their voices and talents now, rather than waiting for some future date, after they leave high school.
So what’s the problem? Inquiry learning can be a bit of a roller coaster. It can be really difficult for students to start learning how to do it in grades 10, 11 & 12. There’s so much they need to unlearn, and often it’s a shift that requires skills they haven’t even begun to develop. This is why I argue vehemently that we need to be introducing inquiry learning when our kids start school.
Because I begin introducing the idea of real world learning so late in my student’s schooling career, sometimes the shift is incredibly difficult. Sometimes we hit a wall, and I don’t know how to fix it, like now. It’s not my student’s fault; there’s so much for them to unlearn and re-learn. And even as a teacher, there’s so much for me to unlearn and re-learn. I don’t have all the answers.
I guess the bottom-line is that I want my life to matter. I want my teaching to matter, and if it doesn’t, I’m not sure I want to be a teacher anymore. I can’t spend the rest of my career teaching in a way that doesn’t affect the real world outside my classroom, that doesn’t actually prepare my students with the skills they need, and facilitate them becoming stronger, wiser people. I’d rather do something else.
I’m stuck, and I don’t know how to move forward. Maybe I expect too much. I don’t know.