Fall brings the start of a new school year for many, and along with it comes the opportunity for valuable learning that will linger long after that math quiz or history paper has gone to the recycling bin. Teachers are charged with bringing certain knowledge to students, but some of the most important subjects in the school experience will also be taught by parents, peers, and others they encounter.
Grades, homework, and report cards have a place in the learning process at many schools. However, in striving to earn a good grade, students can focus on the immediate goal and miss out on the more important concepts delivered with the lessons or in the process of learning. They’re trying to absorb information, do the right thing, win the praise, pass the test, so that they can move on to the next subject and begin the treadmill all over ahead. Some will focus on their studies, others on socializing. Both activities are important, for those growing up are practicing skills that they will use later in life.
That’s the point.
Children may be too young to know, or they may need to be reminded, that the purpose of school isn’t just to finish this paper or earn a certain grade-point average. They’re also supposed to be learning information that translates to the real world, from checkbook balancing to the history of the U.S. Constitution and why they should vote. They’re experiencing the insight offered by a story while they’re writing a book report. They’re learning how to deal with boredom and over-stimulation and time management. Students who understand that can come away with a richer experience.
Students are learning how to handle challenges, in general, in the specifics of a term paper or confusing concept. They’re learning how to handle success and disappointment, how to manage conflict, how to practice social skills. They’re working on their reactions to when someone else makes a mistake or succeeds.
It is up to those who do understand that school is both a now experience and contraction of a foundation, including parents and school volunteers, to help teachers nurture the best outcome for students. Offer connections between their lesson and daily life, either theirs or yours. Listen to how they feel about their experiences or let them talk out a problem until they discover a solution. Model ways to handle emotions. If you, as an adult, can’t figure out how to communicate these things, then perhaps it is a good idea to take yourself back to school (through classes, books, support groups, online learning) to learn the most important subjects: fitting knowledge into a life context, using good social and emotional management skills, and making learning a lifelong pleasure. Both you and the child will benefit.