Education is not a means to an End

Hello! I am excited for your upcoming visit, but before you fully launched into the world of teaching in Canada I figured I would give you a quick primer on what the system is (or at least should be) all about out here.

The thing I want you to realize most is that everything we teach in Canadian schools we teach for a reason. This is a concept that has been lost in the bureaucracy of the system, and doesn’t always hit home with politicians, the parents, the students, and even some of the teachers these days. The reason isn’t to get the students into University, and it isn’t to prepare students for jobs.  The students need exposure to the subjects we teach in order to fully understand themselves, and the world they live in. People seem to know this about the system, but nobody really believes it anymore.

English class isn’t about learning English, it’s about being able to connect with other people. It is about being able to make sure a student can articulate their thoughts, feelings, and intentions without any ambiguity. It is about being able to effectively defend an idea a student believes in. It is about being able to understand communication beyond the literal meaning of words and convey and understand meaning when it cannot be directly written. It is about seeing the world through other people’s eyes, to empathize and realize that there are so many valid ways to understand the world depending on where you stand in it.

Social Studies is not about memorizing historical dates and the names of dead men. Social Studies is about understanding the world we live in by examining how it got this way. It is about learning how to dissect the past and understand the factors that shaped our world, as well as the voices that were silenced in the process. It is about examining the power structures that frame our lives on a daily basis, and learning how to address them, interact with them, and work for, or against, them.

Sciences aren’t about memorizing the periodic table or the parts of a cell, Sciences are about understanding the makeup of the universe. They are about understanding the smallest building blocks of life to the largest mechanisms of the celestial bodies. They are about knowing the world beyond the humans in it. They are about observing the roots of life and exploring the infinite potential of the future, and Math is the universal language in which much of the discussion takes place.

I could go on, and I will, but before you arrive this is the one thing I wanted, needed, you to know and to believe in: There is an ideology, a soul, of the education system that needs to be respected and revitalized. We are here to expose students to a world so much larger than they know, and help them understand it and find their place in it. We are here to help them grow, to guide them, and let them chart their own path ahead. Behind everything you teach keep that in mind, and make sure the students know it too, and use the enthusiasm behind that belief to carry your students forward. Understand, know, and believe that what you are teaching is something you know the students need to learn.

Your future Colleague,
Mr. A.J. Batalden
PS for further reading on the difference between belief and knowledge, check out this great article: Smith, M. U. & Siegel, H. (2004). Knowing, believing, and understanding: What goals for science education? Science & Education, 13(6), 553-582.

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