For Educators

Alliance for Education Path for Success

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Select a grade to proceed down the Alliance for Education path for success

When are we EVER going to have to use this?

If you've taught for any length of time, it's certain that you've heard this question: 
"When are We EVER going to have to use this?"

 Here's a great answer from an educator.

"Beats me," I usually answer. "You can't even tell me definitively what you'll be doing next month, forget about four years from now. How can I definitively say when or whether you'll use THIS? All I can say is that it is useful in certain situations (the word problems in this section are limited versions of the same problems some people face daily), useful as mathematical development for later work (which may be a prerequisite for the course or job you really wanted) or is mental development to expand your brain beyond the limited understanding and very limited world-view you currently have. I'm not being critical here — you really have no experience at life. How could you possibly know the utility of everything you're learning?"

"You have millions of possibilities ahead of you, thousands of doors along this hallway you call life. Writing ability will unlock many of them, artistic ability others, mathematical ability many more. Some may require that you speak English well — certainly 95% of the jobs in this country do. Some will require a little of everything. Each of these doors is along a different stretch of hallway, sort of like that fractal tree over to the right. Each educational decision you make takes you down one branch or another, closing off some possibilities and making others available. To switch from one branch of the tree to another may require a little backtracking to pick up things that you could be learning now. I have no idea which doors will interest you so I have to lay a very broad groundwork and push you in directions you may not immediately see any need for. You have to trust that, over the course of many years and many students, I have a good sense of what you might need and of what you may find interesting after we're done."

"How do I know this? I talk to my students after they graduate. They tell me what they found useful or pointless. I get all kinds of stories about topics that we covered here that directly applied to something they were working on, stories about being the only one who really understood something the professor was trying to say. There aren't many complaints that we spent too much time on a topic they never saw again."

"If there is ever a commonality in the comments of returning graduates, it's this: 'I never imagined that THAT would be useful. I was surprised when it showed up. So was the professor — he was grateful SOMEONE knew about it.'
So, next time your students ask the question, there's an answer that opens your students possibilities, dreams and potentials.

The Alliance for Education continues to partner with schools and districts to help provide real world examples of relevance. If you're looking for ways to integrate relevance and generate engagement with your students, check out the Alliance's ABLE videos and resources.