Breathe Life into Education

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Teaching is not just about grades.

What do students really learn in middle school?

What do students in Prince George’s County really need to be successful?

School is a cultural socialization just as much as it is an academic socialization. Teachers must give academics and culture to students.

When planning lessons, I am sure to ask myself the aforementioned questions. Students always seem to ask, “Why does it matter if I complete this work?” “It’s not like I’m going to use it when I get older!” Teachers always try to find a way to answer this question with a positive spin, but as adults in our everyday lives, we often use the character education and academic education learned in grade school.

And I am not saying academic education isn’t important, but almost all academic education should be tied to some degree of character education.

For over half a decade I have been teaching US History in Prince George’s County. My latest assignment is at the Possibility Prep all boys charter school in Upper Marlboro. In having a discussion with my eighth-grade class towards the end of the year, I asked them what they’ve learned in my class this year. The answers that the students gave had absolutely nothing to do with the “academic” side of US History.

Their responses were based in character, “think before I speak,” “value my heritage,” “it’s ok to be dark-skinned” and “take my education more seriously.” When students respond, they are always challenged to explain why and can’t merely respond with one word. Before I teach them the history of slavery, they learn about the kingdoms and civilizations from which their ancestors came. When analyzing life of the plantation system, we dive into how dark skin and light skin was/is used as a tool of division. And every major assignment is somehow linked to their lives or community development.

I tried not to push students to remember simple facts. Instead, I try to help them understand how historical events have helped to shape their world. This helps them to analyze their character and help them change for the better.

Teachers should push and create quality young people. We must equip our youth for the future. Help them better see the world so they can have the skills to navigate the landscape. Knowing 1+1 is not being educated, but knowing how to use 1+1 is the true essence of education.