Education with the wrong motivation

Education with the wrong motivation

One thing I’ve noticed in my 12 years of public schooling is our constant focus on whatever comes next. It began my very first year of schooling – preschool.  The entire focus of the preschool program was to prepare me for what would come next, kindergarten. It seems logical, right? Heck, the name of the program is pre-school.  However, I noticed this trend would continue far past my early elementary years and most likely wouldn’t end until I stopped pursuing an education.  I was always learning to be prepared for the next year, and never learning just to succeed in life.

In pre-school, the focus was always on kindergarten.  We all strived for better writing skills, better speaking skills, better social skills and better common sense.  The teachers told us that kindergarten would be hard work and that we needed to be prepared.  Even our parents felt pressure from the teachers. They needed to practice counting with us, they needed to read us stories every night and they needed to have structured activities for us everyday.  But it was all done for the sole purpose of preparing me for kindergarten, never just to make me a better person.  Instead of learning how much a penny was worth in order to pass the pretest in kindergarten, I should’ve been learning how much a penny was worth so that I knew how much change to give the cashier when I would by groceries in college.

Once I got into elementary school, every year we would diligently work to be prepared for the next year, but never learn just to gain life skills. In first grade, we practiced hand writing so we could write correctly in second grade.  In second grade we practiced multiplication for third grade.  In third grade, we learned cursive for 4th grade.  If you haven’t noticed the trend, we spent every year preparing skills that would help us the next year, rather than skills that would last a lifetime.

In middle school, our motivation to learn was to be prepared for high school.  It seemed as if the teachers frantically based their teaching strategies on the basis of making sure we would be ready to walk through the doors of JHS. I distinctly remember one instance in 7th grade.  My teacher at the time put multiple rules and regulations in place, constantly defending them saying “you will never be allowed to do this once you get to the high school so you need to be prepared.”  For example, leaving the room to get something from your locker or going to bathroom during class was strictly forbidden, simply on the basis of being prepared for high school.  Rather than putting rules in place that would prepare us for life, rules were put in place to prepare us for high school.  For example, in most public workplaces, limits are not placed on the amount of times a person can use the restroom.

Maybe instead of putting in place redundant rules that turn us into perfect high schoolers, we should learn to respect rules that will carry with us through life.  Instead of limiting the amount of times we can use the bathroom, maybe we teach elementary students how to use their time at school wisely.  Maybe instead of threatening students that they won’t succeed in the next grade without memorization of times tables, we show students practical ways to use multiplication outside of class. Maybe instead of spending 25 minutes a week filling out goal planning sheets, we use that time to learn how write checks and other money management skills.

Our generation of learners never got the experience of learning just to learn, so its time that we teach students how to be better people, rather than just straight A high schoolers.

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