We have all heard a teacher say to a student or a parent say to a child, “When you get out in the real world… blah blah blah”. Every time I hear this, I ask my self: what is the real world? If the real world is this event that happens later in life… then are our students living in the… fake world?
Consider the following:
- For our students, this IS the real world. It does not get any more real than this. By this I mean school, childhood, and anything that is happening to them right here, right now. This is the most important time: the present.
- What do we expect students to think when we say to them, “When you get out in the real world, you will…”? Are we saying to them that their current world is not real? Do we really think that by giving them the real world speech, we can change their behaviour in a way that we get our desired result? Are we saying that school is not the real world? Maybe we need to change the school system to become more real for our students.
- If we keep talking about the real world in this way, we will lose kids by stating that they need to be responsible or better behaved by a certain time period in the distant future. Why not discuss the desired changes that need to take place right now, in their real world.
I know why adults tend to make the real world comments to kids but we have to wonder if this has the desired impact on students. We also need to wonder if this is minimizing their real world; this real world that we discuss seems far more important than the world in which they currently live.
I know some of my students have lives that I believe will actually improve once they move into adulthood; they will have far more freedom and choice in their lives once they break the familial or societal shackles that are holding them back. These students’ daily struggles are far greater than I have ever faced in my life. Their future real world may, in fact, be easier than their present real world.
If there are certain characteristics that we believe are teachable and important for our students to understand, we need to focus on the present and not this so-called real world that exists in the future. We need to make school the real world for our students by offering more student voice, opportunities to make choices and take responsibility, the chance to take risks and make mistakes, time for collaboration, and opportunities to work on their strengths.
We want our kids to be (among others) caring, respectful students who have the ability to problem solve and question the way things are done. By saying that these qualities need to exist in the future real world, what are we saying about their current world? As teachers and parents, we need to encourage learning opportunities for our students to develop the characteristics and qualities that will help them in THEIR real world and not this world we speak of that they may or may not get to at some point in their lives.