What “Matters” in the Year Ahead

The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time, but it can also be an intimidating time for a teacher. There are 180 school days, and it is up to the teacher to make sure that those days matter. If you talk to different people or read certain news articles, you might get varied ideas of what “matters” in the teaching profession. Meeting your state standards? That your students do their homework or pass their tests? That they get an “A”?

No doubt all of these things are important, but in the end, we would argue what really matters is not only test scores or standards met, but also the attitudes and behaviors that your students will carry with them long after they’ve left your classroom. Teachers have a power unlike any other profession where for one year, you can shape the minds of our future generation and provide experiences that, if you’re effective, will someday be drawn upon to tackle real-world issues. Our young people will grow up facing some of the most complex environmental and social issues of our time: climate change, global poverty, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, food security, social justice, resource management (I could go on and on). What “matters” more than ensuring our young people have the knowledge, tools, and motivation to face these challenges head on? In our book, not much.

And the good news is that teaching these important issues doesn’t mean that standards need to be thrown out the window. Looking at the Common Core standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and 21st Century Learning Skills, it is clear that teaching our young people to be creative thinkers about meaningful issues is a national priority. And luckily, this type of contextual, higher level learning is just what excites and motivates students. So really, it is a win-win – engaged students, a generation of environmental stewards and global citizens, and yes, standards met. Sound good? We think so too! Whether as individual lessons, a unit or two, or an over-arching theme, we hope that this year, you’ll teach standards in a way that “matters” (and that you’ll use Population Education resources to get you there!).