What’s In A Name?

So I have been thinking a lot lately about the traditional structure and construct of school course and subject names, and how interesting it would be if we, as schools, finally changed things up. I honestly think it is time to rename many of the subjects that our students take throughout their educational journey, and with this renaming I believe that students would show up with a different mindset, and a clearer understanding of what they are truly being asked to learn about. I also think that this switch would present a possible opportunity for schools to reimagine stand alone subjects and subject areas altogether, allowing for a more transdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. When you stop to think about what’s actually in a name, and the power that comes along with it, the answer is…well, a lot!

As it stands now, the traditional subject names like Math, Science, History, Social Studies, English, Language Arts, and many others have been around since the 19th century, and they bring with them, in my opinion, a really vague and uninspiring connotation that can leave students and teachers mired in the past, and siloed into an antiquated idea of what is possible with curriculum and education. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of going to Math class, a child went to a course called Problem Solving and Critical Thinking, where they show up not only knowing what is expected of them, but inspired by the action that the name proposes. Or if instead of heading off to Science, students went eagerly down the hallway to a class called Seeking the Truth, or Seeking to Understand, where they know precisely what they are there for and what they are meant to do. What about instead of English, or Language Arts, kids walked into a course called Human Connection, which at the heart of it is exactly what we do when we read and write…we connect with one another across cultures and genres and differing perspectives. 

Instead of going to Art class, imagine if kids went to a class called Creativity and Imagination, which in itself screams out for a partnership with maker spaces, innovation clubs, and educational technology opportunities. Also, there are obviously incredible examples of Art, in many forms of writing or music for instance, that could lead to wonderful collaborations between educators. What about offering new courses, either as electives or otherwise called Empathy and Inclusion, or Belonging, or Passions and Inspirations, or Kindness and Gratitude, where kids truly get to learn about what it means to be a great human being for our world, while allowing them to lead out their own desired learning pathway throughout a school day or school week. Listen, I could go on and on, with more examples and more possible names but you get my drift. I would love it if at some point a student schedule looked something like this, across all divisions of a school…

Problem Solving and Critical thinking (Math)
Seeking the Truth (Science)
Human Connection (English Language Arts)
Creativity and Imagination (Art)
What Ties Us Together (Social Studies)
Empathy and Inclusion
Passion and Inspiration

Instead of this…

Math, Science, Art, Social Studies, English, etc…

To be clear, my intention with this post is not at all to devalue the passion and rigor that subject specific educators bring to their subjects, which is immense I know, but rather it’s a way to possibly thread them together where appropriate, or to support them to better clarify and communicate what it is that they are targeting for their students. It’s a way of looking at subjects through a different lens…a lens that is clearly aligned with a more current and innovative structure, and a new lens that students can engage with when thinking about the class that they are taking. Finally, please understand that I am acutely aware of the fact that some schools around the world have already done this work, and I know that there are wonderfully progressive and creative curriculum structures out there that are changing the landscape of education in beautiful and inspiring ways, but for the most part, schools everywhere, all around the world, are still using the course subject names that our great grandparents used and honestly, times have changed, and things are rapidly changing, and we could too. 

Anyway, I’m going to continue this discussion in the future with schools and organizations who have already begun this journey and I hope this post has given you something to ponder and explore in your own communities if nothing else. It’s important to keep challenging the traditional structure of education so we can keep getting better for our kids, so at the root of it, just ask yourself, why? Why are we still using these traditional names when there is a more creative, more inspiring, and more engaging opportunity just waiting for us to act on. What’s in a name? Well, there is so much power, so much opportunity for innovation, and so much tied to a student’s relationship with learning…so, let’s think about it. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…
A name represents identity, a deep feeling, and holds tremendous significance to its owner
-Rachel Ingber

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