International College Hong Kong
Nov 09, 2020

The real world that is school

We all have some bad habits - and one of mine is using a turn of phrase which I don't much like, but which, despite that, I sometimes find tripping off my tongue. That's the problem with cliches - they take on a life of their own.

I refer to the phrase: "school should ready students for the real world".

It's an unhelpful phrase, I think, because it gives the impression, not least to students themselves, that school itself is not "the real world". The "real world", it suggests, is somewhere else, somewhere beyond, somewhere in the indeterminate future.

In actuality, of course, school is the real world, and that all the habits, values, and attitudes which serve you well in school serve you equally well - or, in the case of bad habits, equally poorly - outside of school. Filling out your profile as an effective, popular, reliable student is simultaneously to establish yourself as a substantial and attractive persona in life more widely. There is no division between these two achievements and there is no need to wait to feel the benefits of the one on the other.

I make these comments now because, over the past five days, I have been struck by the vast range of good habits and positive attitudes that are being shown by our Year 7 students as they tackle the many challenges of Deep Learning+ Week.

Some skills mirror those that they regularly practice in the classroom: attentive listening, information retention, retrieval and processing, asking questions, responding to feedback, synthesising data. But there are a range of other skills which get much less of a workout in class but which are a vital part of real world performance: active collaboration, personal fortitude, a sense of humour even when fatigued, responding to emergent conditions in a complex environment, supporting and boosting others who are struggling, rapid self-regulation leading to control over ego-states ...

As teachers, what we know from years past is that the experiences of the last week will have taken the Year 7s out of their comfort zones in ways and to degrees that will have direct consequences on their sense of who they are, of what they are capable, and what they might become. The shorthand for this is growth.

If student development, week by week, is plotted on a graph, what we have just witnessed is a small but significant step-change ...

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