What’s the Point of School?

While most members of Radical Nation are probably familiar with Tony Sinanis — Principal of Cantiague Elementary School and the mind behind the Leading Motivated Learners blog — they may be less familiar with Tony’s brilliant son Paul.

Paul is heading to middle school this year and in a recent conversation with his dad, Paul dropped some words of wisdom about schooling:

Slide - The Point of School

Paul’s words matter, y’all. They are a tangible reminder that it is OUR fault when kids think school is pointless.

That doesn’t mean that we need to ditch everything in our required curricula.  There ARE things that we want every child to learn — and our students may not automatically see the value in that content.  Exploring things like the commutative and distributive properties of multiplication or the origins of democracy might seem pretty darn pointless to a middle schooler — but I wouldn’t want kids to graduate without knowing that stuff.

But it DOES mean that we have to do a better job helping students to see the value in the work that we are doing in our classrooms. It ALSO means that we have to do a better job connecting the work that we are doing in our classrooms to the interests and motivations that our kids pursue outside of schools.

The simple truth is that engaging learners means helping students to see the value — to themselves, to their communities, to the world — in every single lesson.



Related Radical Reads:

Should We be Engaging or Empowering Learners?

How Engaged are YOUR Students?

Engagement isn’t Something You do TO Students

2 thoughts on “What’s the Point of School?

  1. Alan

    Re: ‘What’s the point of school?’ (October 7, 2015). I remember in high school math spending several weeks being bored (i.e. not motivated) when starting to learn differentiation. Then in the 3rd week the teacher writes a problem on the board ‘A farmer has bought 1km of fencing wire. What is the maximum area that the farmer can fence?’ Wow, an application (i.e. the point) of differentiation – now I get it! If the teacher had started this part of the math curriculum by illustrating problems where you need to work out minimums and/or maximums I would probably not have struggled for 2 weeks…

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Such an important point, Alan!

      Why don’t teachers start with the application question first? That’s always bothered me as a teacher. The “what’s the point” part should be front and center in every lesson. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be surprised when kids aren’t engaged!

      Thanks for the example,

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