What to do when your students ask, “Why Am I Learning This?” – Episode 008

“Why Am I Learning This?”

It’s an all too common question asked in the classroom. When will I ever use _____ BLANK? I’m not going to be a _____BLANK, why should I learn this? I’m not going to college, so I don’t need this.

It is a teacher’s kryptonite to hear these words as it deflates your ambitions and drive. Some of the biggest rewards as a teacher is to watch them struggle and then understand a difficult concept! It is the goal of every teacher (hopefully) to be able to help them learn and grow as human beings. To be able to help my students understand the world and guide them as they form their unique perspective is a privilege. When you get excited about the topic, you hope that your students become just as excited. So when your students show a lack of interest, it makes you question yourself and creates self doubt on why exactly you are teaching what you are teaching.

  1. Do NOT get angry. Screaming, displays of anger or crying accomplishes nothing for my students and does even less for myself. As the adult in the room, it is important that I model the behavior I expect from my students. If you get angry, yell, scream, or act in any such ways, expect that same behavior from them. Set the bar high for yourself and your students; stay calm, cool, collected and in control of yourself
  2. Ask them why. It is very easy to dismiss this question and many others like this, because it might come off as disrespectful or even rude. We cannot forget that they are children; children who are learning about the world through their relationship with you. Building a functioning relationship with your students is key to their learning process, so do not take this question personally. Instead, this is an opportunity to ask them why the feel that way? What are their plans? What do they see themselves doing in the future? It is an opportunity for engagement, so engage!

The BEST response is the following:

“I am not in the business of teaching knowledge, we are building brains and I am helping you create different ways for you to see the world and to think. The more you learn, the more your brain grows. And the more you learn about different things, the better you will be at handling different types of situations in the future. I am helping you build a brain that will handle every type of situation possible.  So what kind of brain do you want to build today?”

Emotional labor is one of the reasons that teaching is difficult. Yet at the same time, it can be the best part of teaching, because as your students grow, so does your fulfillment. The better you are at handling the emotional labor, the stronger your relationships with your students, the more success you will see in you classroom. AND… the more rewarding your teaching experience will be.

And don’t forget to… Seal It With A Smile 🙂

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