Do you dread the questions like “Why should I learn this?” or “When will I have to use this in real life?” from your students? Do you placate them with answers like, “It’ll prepare you for work you’ll have in the next grade?” Or do you jimmy the examples trying to force some element of relevance into the problem? (For example, changing the problem from finding the area of a rectangle to finding the area of Taylor Swift’s stage, which happens to be a rectangle.)
Your students don’t buy these answers any more than you do. So, here’s an alternative. Regardless of what you are teaching, there are six skills that your students will need to be successful in the future. If you work any of these six skills into your lesson, you can instantly add relevance and confidently answer the question, “Why should I learn this?” with an answer that is truthful, meaningful, and hopefully fun.
Be able to solve problems, persevere through challenges, and seek multiple solutions.
Convey ideas clearly and concisely in a variety of media.
Understand how to connect ideas to other ideas and to the world.
Demonstrate a curiosity in other cultures and and empathy for all people, building community and consensus, and utilizing proper context.
Foster a sense of teamwork through mutual respect, clear roles and responsibilities, and genuine support for one another.
Build a capacity to imagine, to see not what is but what can be and to bring into existence something that was not here before and adds value to the world.
The truth is, “Why should I learn this?” and “When will I have to use this in real life?” are fair questions. Teachers have historically written these questions off as a nuisance, but let’s be better. Let’s embrace these questions (and the students who ask them) and let them challenge us to not waste our students’ or our own time on anything that isn’t genuinely preparing them for the future. If you work any one of these six skills into a lesson, you’ll meet the challenge head on.