Teach it because you have to, not because it matters.

February 27, 2007 at 2:23 pm 6 comments

I’ve had a couple of comments on a post I wrote about having to teach things that I don’t enjoy (namely, the French Revolution).  Both of them were upbeat, “it’s okay” sorts of comments – and those are definitely nice.  But truth be told, while they were empathizing and kind, the voiceover in my head when I read the comments translated them as, “Suck it up, be a big girl, and teach it because we all have to.  Life’s not fair.  Yada yada yada.”

Please understand that I don’t mean any offense to the commenters!  But the thought I have rolling around in my head right now (like, right now) is this: Instead of me teaching the things I hate, shouldn’t students be learning the things they love?

Because I do believe there’s a difference.

I think that, as a student in the United States today, understanding what democracy is and what it means for everyday life in the 21st Century is much more relevant and engaging than talking about the National Assembly and the Bastille.  Great.  Some stuff happened 200 years ago.  So what?  What does it mean for me nowTomorrow?  Next week?  When I’m in college/45 years old/retired – assuming I get to retire?

It’s nice to know historical facts.  But is it necessary anymore?  David Warlick did a presentation about Millennials at TCEA (podcast available here) and says:

For the first time in history, our job as educators is to prepare our students for a future that we cannot clearly describe.

I figure, if I can’t describe it, then that must mean it’s going to look like something I haven’t seen before, something I don’t even have words for.  If it’s going to look nothing like anything we’ve ever had, then why are we still conducting school the same way we always have?  Why are we still teaching the same things?

Why are we so focused on the past?


Entry filed under: David Warlick, Education, Millennials, Relevance, School 2.0.

I’m Special! I started writing a response…

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jodi  |  February 27, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Instead of me teaching the things I hate, shouldn’t students be learning the things they love?

    What if they love the French Revolution? The fact is that what you love is not always going to correspond with what they love. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I want teachers to show my kids the spectrum so they can find out what motivates them. You may not feel studying history is relevant but it’s one of my favorite subjects and inspires me to continuing learning on a daily basis.

    It’s nice to know historical facts. But is it necessary anymore?

    How long have we heard this debate? I could ask the same question about studying almost anyting – do we really need to study authors from 200 years agao, understand the evolution of science, politics, social movements? If you are approaching history as just a set of facts then yes, it will be boring to teach and to learn. History relates to every subject there is. I beleive it helps students understand a process of change. Not the old adage that we won’t repeat our mistakes (!).


  • […] 28th, 2007 by theothersideofthedesk …to a comment I received about one of my posts yesterday, and it turned into so much information that I decided […]

  • 3. waltzingaustralia  |  March 21, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    i believe it was Santayana who said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. History is always valuable, even if it’s just so we learn from our mistakes. And how will students discover what they love if they never “meet” it? I agree that we should allow children more freedom to pursuie a topic that interests them once it is presented, but how will kids know what they like if we don’t expose them to a wide variety of themes, topics, ideas, and subject areas?

  • 4. theothersideofthedesk  |  March 22, 2007 at 9:17 am


    For my thoughts on how I’d like to see students exposed to a variety of topics, please see my Feb 28 post.

  • 5. waltzingaustralia  |  March 22, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    A lot of interesting points in the 2/28 post. And just so you know, my comment was meant to be an encouragement. I work in the field of education, and have for more than 20 years, and I find that many teachers are encouraged to know that there really is a reason to teach some of what they are told they have to teach. But I do know that it’s not easy at present, especially, as you point out, in areas with large non-English-speaking populations. So good luck with your teaching.

  • 6. theothersideofthedesk  |  March 23, 2007 at 6:55 am


    Thank you! I appreciate all the encouragement I can get. I checked out your blog yesterday; good luck with your book – and do enjoy your trip to Australia! 🙂

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