I love this quote:

When students ask "why are we learning this?", I make an extremely strong effort to explain it to them. When I was a kid, I was one of those students that always, always had to know why something is the way it is. I wanted everything analyzed to its very nature so that I can understand. Learning this way takes much more time in the beginning. However, helping a student become more inquisitive and want to know why, will end up saving more time in the long run as the students will understand what they are doing and why.

I'm sharing this quote I found on Twitter from an author describing the very thing that I am talking about. One issue that I find with non-teacher opinions on education is that they never tell the whole picture. Namely, what I feel is being lost in this quote is the fact that many students may ask "why are we learning this?", but I would say that many of them do not care about whatever answer you tell them. They are simply seeking a way to complain about what they are learning and could care less about why.

So what do I do to try to counteract this? Before answering the question, I simply ask the student if they are open-minded enough to accept my answer (in a nice way of course) or if they are just looking to complain. If they choose the former, then I try to reiterate the concepts of my teaching that are introduced to students in the beginning of the year. I also may advise them to check my website which has all of those same reasons and ideas behind my teaching and why I teach what I do.

Being that I teach math, many students feel as though they will NEVER use what they learn in my class. Now, rather than disagree with them, I partially agree. They will most likely never directly use any of the content that I teach them, however, they will use the 21st century skills that are practiced each and everyday while learning the content. Things such as the Habits of Mind:
  1. Persisting
  2. Managing Impulsivity
  3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  4. Thinking Flexibly
  5. Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
  6. Striving for Accuracy
  7. Questioning and Posing Problems
  8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
  10. Gathering Data through All Senses
  11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating
  12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  13. Taking Responsible Risks
  14. Finding Humor
  15. Thinking Interdependently
  16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
Here is a list breakdown of those skills based on The Partnership for 21st Century Skills:

  1. Learning Skills
    • Critical Thinking
    • Creative Thinking
    • Collaborating
    • Communicating
  2. Literacy Skills
    • Information Literacy
    • Media Literacy
    • Technology Literacy
  3. Life Skills
    • Flexibility
    • Initiative
    • Social Skills
    • Productivity
    • Leadership
Long story short, why are we learning this?

To help foster 21st century skills. Thankfully, these skills can be taught with any subject regardless of its apparent lack of future use.

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