…in the “Real World”

Often, and I am guilty of doing this as well, we educators and parents tell our students and children, “Wait until you get out in the real world.” As with many things, out of the blue, when I heard someone say this today about students, it rubbed me the wrong way.

It was said in a casual conversation, wasn’t meant to make any real point, and was a regular conversation about education. But, as soon as the other person said it, I had to make a quick note, writing, “in the real world” on my blogging notepad. The phrase kept going running round and round in my head for the day.

I know when we say it, we are referring to adulthood where we aren’t living with our families anymore and have to earn a real wage. Our intent is to let them know things are most likely easier now then it will be in a few years. As I pondered it today, I came around to seeing how we are inadvertently denigrating the current life experiences of our students and children.

Yes, we have a longer life experience then they do. And yes, we are a lot wiser and worldly then they are. However, they are living in the real world. It is their real world, their reality.

Their real world is school and home. Children have to deal with a world in which they don’t yet know how to be at times. They are learning interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships and communication. They are figuring out how to handle disappointment and joy, all while not always having the language to describe these feelings. They are maneuvering through how to do abstract thinking in math, reading and writing, along with a natural world largely invisible to the naked eye. Right now, they are also experiencing and navigating a pandemic in which society is not cooperating in mitigating.

These concepts and experiences are their real world. We probably shouldn’t take their real world experiences away from them even as we know what awaits them in the adult “real world.”

My goal is not to use “in the real world” again. Not sure what I might say instead, but “when you are an adult on your own” is the best I’ve come up with so far.

What do you think might be an alternative to “in the real world?”

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