Educationally Speaking, Rob MacLellan
As I write this, we are only days away from one of the most exciting times in the education world – the start of school.
The only day more exciting than this is the last day of school for the year. I offer a potpourri of thoughts on the eve of this event.
Thousands of students will soon be flocking back into Nova Scotia classrooms. Count yourself lucky if you are one of them. As exciting a time as it is, it is also a time of a certain amount of anxiety. One wonders:
Will the teachers like me, and will I like my teachers?
Will the students like me?
How hard will I find the work?
Will there be much homework?
What should I wear the first day?
How will I find my way around the school?
Do I have all the right school supplies?
I imagine that as you are reading this, you are thinking about your children. It might surprise you to learn that these are also the questions that adult learners ask, and these are also the questions that brand new teachers ask, as well perhaps as experienced teachers who are beginning work in a new school. Do you find that surprising?
We all want to fit in and to get along, so heading into the unknown can be disquieting. Happily, schools are welcoming institutions that want only the best for us. Newly arrived at a school, we will soon find other students, colleagues or mentors who will help us navigate those difficult first days.
After the first couple of weeks, a feeling of normalcy begins to establish itself. At that point, we begin to build relationships that, while they may come and go, provide the support we need to make it through the school year successfully.
Having made it through our first couple of weeks, we can then focus on our day-to-day activities. Let’s consider for a moment the enterprise that is education. I have heard it told to students, both school age and adult alike, that the real world is out there, that school isn’t the real world.
I beg to differ. The world of school and education is as real as it gets, and it is as much work as the world of paid work outside the school walls. In each setting, participants forge relationships with co-workers (other students), have to be on time and must provide reasons for non-attendance, have tasks they must perform, are evaluated on their performance, have to conform to a certain dress code, have their use of or access to wireless technology and social media regulated, and are disciplined for inappropriate workplace behaviours.
I could add more to this list, but I think you get the idea. School and work mean the same thing.
While motivation among individuals will vary, few of us plan to fail. If we take this as a given, then it follows that we need to know how to be successful. The answer is simpler than you might think. In the context of the school environment, give the teachers (and teachers give their principals) what they ask for, and if you get stuck, ask for help. That’s it.
What the teachers ask of you will be consistent with the course expectations that you are required to master at each level. When completing an assignment, assume that the person who is going to be reading it knows nothing about the topic, unless you have otherwise been instructed, and make sure that you provide the level of detail that is expected of you. If the details of the assignment are not clear enough for you to understand, ask for further information.
A case in point, I recall one time, many years ago, when a teaching colleague gave an assignment to his class at the conclusion of a week’s study about Greek-Canadians. The assignment was for the students to write a brief essay on what they had learned about this particular Canadian ethnic group.
A few of his students submitted responses similar to the following: ‘I learned what they ate. I learned where they lived. I learned how they dressed. I learned about their customs and holidays.’
Granted, the teacher might have been a little more specific in the assignment instructions, but the student clearly did not demonstrate any real acquired knowledge in this response and therefore would not have received a good mark. Two-way communication in any relationship is a key component to success in the school and work environment.
In closing, I would encourage all students, both school-age and adult, and new teachers to go forward with confidence into your new workplace of learning. You have the tools that you need to be successful. Don’t worry about the odd stumble along the way; you will find many people willing to help you along, if you only ask. I trust you will have a great year.
Rob MacLellan is an advocate of adult education, a professional educator, and a resident of Alton. He can be reached at: phone: 673-3269, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.