Stop me if you have heard this one before in a classroom setting:
“You know, in the real world, you won’t be able to….”
“When you get to the real world, you will see…”
“School is a bubble—you aren’t in the real world until you graduate.”
This line of thinking brings up several questions.
- If the students aren’t in the so-called real world, where are they?
- What message does it send to students that their world is somehow fake, make-believe or inauthentic?
- What does this say about the world of education that we openly admit to operating in some kind of fantasy land?
I cannot count how many times I have heard the expression “the real world” come out of the mouth of a teacher or even the students themselves. To me, this is not only inaccurate but also wildly destructive. By separating the students from reality or somehow suggesting that they are not actual functioning members of society, we are stripping them of both power and agency. By implying the students’ current words and actions don’t count, that they are in some kind of trial run for the real thing, we are truly doing them a great disservice.
One of our primary goals should actually be to help the students understand that they are currently living in “the real world.” They should be engaged in their own communities, passionate about what is happening around them and empowered to make a difference. Educators often remark that one of the primary functions of a school is to cultivate the citizens of the future. If this belief is put into practice, we must allow them to practice their citizenship in a legitimate fashion.
One way we achieve this ever-important goal is through the power of Integrated Project Based Learning. IPBL is an innovative educational approach to learning that empowers students to see the value in their own learning, motivates students to make cross-curricular connections, and ensures that the students are developing relationships and engaging in the community in order to make a difference.