Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The REAL Questions We Should Be Asking

Many religious schools I know are struggling to retain teens as part of their educational programs, once they pass the bar- or bat-mitzvah milestone.

They’re trying
  • more content
  • less content
  • more frequent meetings
  • less frequent meetings
  • retreats in lieu of some classes
  • retreats in addition to class
  • to give “credit” for volunteer work, youth group activities
  • to make programs more rigorous
  • to make programs more “social”
  • making meals part of the program (If you feed them, they will come!)

What I seldom hear is a discussion articulating the relevance of the program offerings.

We talk about what teens will learn. We spend a great deal of time deciding who will teach them. We seriously consider methodology. We evaluate the structure in an attempt to meet their scheduling constraints. "Who, what, where and when" - that's our focus.

But, do we tell them why it’s important to learn what we want them to know? Do we specify the connection to their daily lives?

My friend and colleague, Marc Kay, challenges us: “So what?” Why does what we are teaching matter? What's the relevance?

We may have (in our own minds) an answer to that question, BUT do we share that insight with our students?

I remember asking Mr. McNaughton, in advanced algebra (back in the dark ages), why we needed to learn how to operate a slide rule. “At some point,” he assured us, “we’d need to be able to do complex calculations and this was the most accurate way to do them.”

(Does anyone out there even remember a slide rule? Or how to use it?)

Hopefully, the knowledge, values and experiences we’re trying to get our teens to grapple with have relevance for them in their lives TODAY, as well as in the future.

"So what" should be the first question we ask, not the last.

1 comment:

Minnesota Mamaleh said...

morah mry, this was an insightful important post. learning is so vital and so on the forefront of all of our minds-- but if we're not asking the right questions 9of our students and of ourselves) it's all for naught. you've really explained that well here. thank you for that!