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What does “do school and navigate life” mean?

Written by: Bonnie Singer, Ph.D.
December 16th, 2014  |  Categories: ,

do-school-navigate-lifeAt Architects For Learning, everything we do is focused on helping students “do school.” (I really wish could take credit for that phrase, but it was coined by Dr. Carol Westby, a well-known expert in language and literacy.) Students learning how to “do school” must manage not only new academic knowledge but also new social knowledge with each passing year. Some of this knowledge is absorbed in classroom lessons, and some is learned by noticing how teachers and other students talk and interact with one another. More simply put, parents and teachers expect students to demonstrate very different academic and social abilities in third grade than they do in eighth and twelfth grade. I resonate so much with Dr. Westby’s definition of “doing school,” for the instruction we provide at AFL is always mindful of and responsive to the varying language, learning and social demands students face in different grades.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe that learning to “do school” also involves learning to “navigate life,” for school and life are intricately intertwined for students. To do school well, students must acquire the core academic skills expected at their grade level – they need to listen, speak, read, write, solve mathematical and scientific problems, understand historical and current events, and learn more advanced vocabulary. They also need to develop a host of other abilities that support their success with these skills. Many of these are not captured by mandated curriculum standards, but they are proven to be crucially important when it comes to doing well in school and holding a job: planning, organizing, managing time, studying, reading social cues, knowing whether the teacher (or boss) is looking for a long response or a short one, working efficiently, being accountable, coping with stress and anxiety, and the list goes on. We focus on ALL of these in our work with students.

Our ultimate goal is that students develop not only the skills they need to succeed, but also the strategies and habits they need to be effective in navigating their academic, social, and vocational lives.