In this podcast I address one of the most feared questions ever.
As I'm typing this I'm just finishing part 2 of the Edupodder Pizzacast. (Part 1's here, FYI.) Edupodder is a blog/podcast focussing mostly on topics that would be of interest to journalism majors in college, but naturally there's plenty of overlap since blogging is itself a form of journalism. (It's role in journalism is still being debated, but there it is.)
Their "pizzacast" was a meeting of teachers, students, and even at least one member of the community. While chowing down on the official food of higher education they discussed the curriculum for a new course that would be starting in the fall.
This conversation got me thinking. You see, a lot of the conversation was on what the students would need to know after they graduated. This hit home for me, since that is in fact what every teacher should think about daily. If you have a student who asks you "When will we need to know this?" and you don't have an answer, then maybe you really are wasting their time.
Now granted there are plenty of exceptions to this. I knew early on that I wanted to be an art teacher and never strayed from that path, but many of my friends had drastic career changes that forced them to draw on otherwise unused talents or learn new skills altogether. Their laments of "When will we need to know THIS?" became "Oh, I'm glad I knew THAT!"
My point is that as teachers we need to look ahead to "life after school" and come up with answers not only for WHAT the students need to know, but WHY they need to know it. Our curriculum guides that are provided by our school, county, or state often take care of that first part for us, but we still need to know why what we're teaching is so important. Not just the subject, but each lesson.
If you use a standardized lesson plan format like my county does, there probably isn't a place for the "why" in there. Still, I recommend finding a spot somewhere and answering that question anyway. It's one more thing to keep us from teaching for teaching's sake, and instead prepare our students for life in the real world. (Or at the very least, for their next step in education.)
As an added bonus, the next time you have a student ask "Why?" you'll have a snappier comeback than just "Because."