Often as teachers we follow this movie lawyer cliché in our classrooms: We ask questions that we have seen lead our students through a lesson like a well-rehearsed play. While the actors may change, the roles and the conclusion remain the same. It allows us to avoid surprises and the distractions, disruptions, and conflict that comes with them. The problem with this classroom is that is a poor reflection of how learning actually happens. Learning never proceeds forward like a predictable comedy or drama, it is often surprising, and it is filled with distraction, disruption, and conflict.
Along with my schedule of social studies classes, I also serve as an advisor for 15 students once a week. Through advisory I spend time looking at their grades, checking in with their lives, and mostly building relationships that are often lost between teachers and students in high school. While I love the chance to have such a close relationship with a handful of students, it seems like a week does not go by without one or more of them asking me about why they have to study this subject or another. "Why do I need to take Calculus?" or "Why do I need biology when I am not going to be a biologist?" For a long time, I would simply tell them that learning math, science, English, and history were all part of what made them well-rounded students, able to succeed in college and beyond. Recently, I came to a different conclusion.