We’re halfway to school when my 14-year-old son remembers a homework assignment he forgot to do for biology class.
“Something big?” I ask, fearing the worst.
“Nah,” he says with a shrug. “Just a handout and some questions. It doesn’t matter.”
It’s happened before, many times, in fact, that “it doesn’t matter” response when it comes to work both of my kids are doing in school. This morning when he said it, I started trying to remember any work that they’d done this year that actually did matter in the world, work that seemed to have a purpose outside the classroom. Unfortunately, not much came to mind.
That’s an especially frustrating reality for me because in my travels to schools around the world I see lots of examples of “work that matters”; high school kids in Philadelphia designing solar panels for hospitals in the African bush; middle school kids in San Diego writing books about their local ecosystems and selling them in local stores; primary school kids designing a new classroom wing being built at their school outside of Melbourne, Australia. And more.
“Work that matters” has significance beyond classroom walls; it’s work that is created for an authentic audience who might enjoy it or benefit from it even in a small way. It’s work that isn’t simply passed to the teacher for a grade, or shared with peers for review. It’s work that potentially makes a difference in the world.