Read This: Reality Check

In this interesting piece, Tom Whitby makes an important observation:

“First, I must say that the real world for kids does not begin when they graduate. They are living in the real world now. Their world is quite different from ours. Their world is even more technology driven than ours. Schools cannot be protective cocoons holding our youth until they are matured and educated well enough to spread out their wings and take on the reality of the world. It makes a nice picture, but the subject today is reality.”

We  do sometimes act as if life outside the classroom stands still while we are “preparing our students for the real world.” In fact, surviving or succeeding in public education is part of their real world.  I believe what I do every day in school has critical consequences for my students.  What about you?

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  • KrisGiere


    Thanks for sharing, Renee.  The phrase “real world” in reference to life outside of school always left a bad taste in my mouth.  I’ve known since I was a child that something was not right about that perception.  “How was the world I was experiencing not real?” I would wonder.  I didn’t dare ask because I didn’t want to offend those who spoke of this real world and its differences.  I might be willing to call it is a bigger world, even with technology constantly expanding our reach into the world, no matter our age.

    Regardless, the point Tom Whitby makes holds true. As a teacher, I cannot teach as if school is an insular world that staves off the rest until graduation occurs.  Instead, I try to recognize education’s role in the everyday and integrate it in a way that makes learning as natural as breathing so that the thought of living without learning is as foreign as the concept of breathing without oxygen.

  • SusanGraham

    Whose World is it Anyway?

    And of course this leads us again to the question of “whose real world” we are talking about?

    I would argue that we have an obligation to equip our students to live, present tense, in the “real world” where they currently exist when class is over for the day. 

    We owe it to them to make them aware  of other geographic, socio-economic, and cultural “real worlds” and provide them with the tools they need to immigrate to those realities if they have the desire, courage, and ambition necessary to attempt that journey.

    And maybe most important, we need to help them develop the ability to make informed choices about the “real world” they choose to live in and to encourage them to dream and to create their own “real world.”


  • ShellyCBuchanan

    Bringing Our Students’ Real World Into the Classroom

    To this end — honoring the real world of our students and supporting them in connecting their real world to the classroom — it has been my focus in the last few years to help teachers guide students through independent inquiry projects, where students choose their own topic of exploration, ask good questions, research, create and share their growing understandings with their peers.  With this kind of real work students follow a passion or explore an interest to learn better who they are and how they relate to the world and to their community.  The learning is in both the process and in the content of their chosen topic and builds community within and outside the classroom as students gain expertise in a particular field.  I have had students study Egyptian heiroglyphics, animal breeding, ten design, Chinese cooking, fiction writing, reggae music, to name a few areas of study.

    Are others out there doing anything like this with kids?  Are others out there interested in exploring this kind of school work?

    • BillIvey

      Real worlds

      I do something like this in my Humanities 7 class. The kids jointly design units part of which include individual explorations of specific questions and sharing those learnings with the class. Along the same lines, my Rock Band students choose all the music we perform.

      I’ve never understood why school is not considered “the real world.” Are not the people who inhabit it real people? Does it not comprise a large chunk of their reality? No, I’m acutely aware that every moment of every day, I need to be involved in supporting my students in becoming their own best selves, a part of the world to which they, no l less than I and other adults, belong. To me, it’s part and parcel of taking them seriously and of working to build a better world.

      The one major thing I worry about – as do they – is the notion that, as students in a girls school, they can pretty well count on having a voice and being taken seriously, yet the larger world sexism still reigns. How, they and I ask, can we build the kinds of skills and resilience they will need in college and beyond in dealing with that sexism? Still working on that one…

    • ReneeMoore

      Independent Inquiry

      I’d like to hear more about your work. I teach English composition at community college and dual enrollment high school students. I very much want to move more to inquiry or problem based learning, but still have some significant questions and challenges. 

    • KrisGiere

      Inquiry Based Projects

      Hi Shelly,

      Like Renee, I am interested in hearing examples of inquiry based projects as I am working to integrate the concept more and more into my teaching style.