Teaching lessons for life… that should be every teacher’s ultimate goal. After all, we have the awesome task of preparing our students for a future which none of us have ever seen! With such a responsibility, I must keep myself updated, knowledgeable, and constantly asking the question, “What if…?” Personally, I love the challenge.
At the same time, I have felt the calling to do my part to change or at least have some effect upon the “predicted future” which someone has put forth that casts a negative shadow upon this land I love. I am speaking specifically about Russia’s prediction by Khrushev at the United Nations when he said, “We will bury you! … You will fall into our hands like a ripe lemon falls off a tree!” Of course, this means I must make my students aware of the intent of those words first. Then, I must challenge them not to be a part of the decay from within of which Khrushev spoke.
My math classes are an example of how I try to make learning a life-long process. I teach students that the math practice pages are like using the owner’s manual for a new tool. Once we know how to use the basic operations that are in our math tool chest, there are many uses for solving real life problems. After all, I explain that everything in life is either an “addition situation” or a “subtraction action.” We either add to something, or we take something away. The rest of those pages in the stream of math books are only different illustrations of how these tools can be used. It sure relieves a lot of their anxiety when they discover that multiplication is only “warp speed addition,” and division is only “warp speed subtraction!” I have learned that children can learn anything if we put it into terms they can understand. My fourth and fifth graders are having fun with algebraic equations (not in the standard textbooks for that grade) because we use concrete objects for the variables, and then apply common sense to solve the unknown. As they say, “This is fun!”
As my science students have learned to look at “what is” and then ask “what if...,” we have had the good fortune of being the recipients of several national awards. The creative problem solving was informative and confidence-building for the teacher and the students! Several have gone on to seek a future in medicine and science research. Now that’s what I call an education!
In summary, it is far better for students to be problem solvers while in school…mistakes are not subjected to world-wide ramifications…and there is always the next school day, week, or semester to learn from our mistakes. Yes, I’ll say it again: “I love what I do!”