The Educating of Life Education

None of the textbooks in my classroom provide the resources to address the subject matter. It falls between the cracks between language arts, social studies, math, and even science and is caught by the ears of the observant teacher. It is the learning about life that comes in the moments of a day and the events in a week.

The educating of life has become the necessary non-curriculum-based course for young students. It’s the learning about how the world functions, the challenges of our times, and the opportunities that the future holds. The wisdom of teachers is elevated above math calculations, dangling participles, and essay formulas, during the educating of life.

In recent times, our school and two others, experienced the discovery of an individual, several years removed from his days as a student, who was planning an attack. It hit the news, so there has been no need to keep it under wraps. Law enforcement arrested him before his plan had been fully developed and put into action, but it was still a life education experience for our students about the evil that lurks within some people’s hearts and minds. It was not a situation that could be answered with a “Why would a person want to do such a thing?” It goes off the page in terms of common sense. Simply put, there will always be some “crazies” in the world. Do we live in fear of them or let the crazies teach us things like being aware of our surroundings, trusting that feelings of uncomfortableness are warning signs to not discount, and the vitalness of keeping each other safe?

Or there’s vaping. It’s filtered down from high schools to middle schools. Telling kids to not vape is only one point in the conversation. Helping them to have the willpower to turn away from behaviors that will end up in bad ways is another point. Helping them to see that wisdom is a great quality that will lead to be life that has value is still another point. That kind of education comes in the conversations that occur at lunchtime or during moments spent in the outdoors while getting some fresh air. Helping kids realize that there are people in the world who want to ACT (Emphasis added!) as their friends, while sucking them into behavioral habits that will lead them toward destruction and despair, that’s life education.

And then there’s loss. I’ve had a few students lose family members this school year. Losing a grandparent who has always been present in their life is an emotionally debilitating event. For a couple of my students, it was the first time they had experienced the death of a family member. I didn’t have answers for them, but rather offered guiding questions that led them toward a healthy grappling with grief. Nothing we learned about the American Revolution in those days of class were even comprehended by the grieving adolescent, but perhaps they picked up some tools that helped them deal with the brokenness in mourning.

And finally, another life education scenario has been the lack of motivation that some students wrestle with. They have felt a pervading apathy, but also guilt because of the apathy. A lesson on “grit” for those young people was more vital than the poetry elements of alliteration, hyperbole, and metaphor that we were learning. “Grit” oozed onto the pages of a few of the poems they created, but it’s something that can never be plunged into them like a flu shot.

School shootings, addictive behaviors, social media bullying, death and loss, a culture that is more about speaking than listening, and minimizing rather than respecting. There has been a year’s worth of educating about life education. For most students, it is what they will remember long after the harshness of the 1765 Stamp Act imposed by the British on the American colonists has been forgotten.

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