the future of public education

when you’re an educator, you want more than anything to see students succeed. you know in your heart that all students deserve the best education, and you do everything in your power to make that the case. unfortunately, it seems not all teachers in the field are providing a quality education.

growing up, you’ve probably had a handful of really good and really bad teachers scattered between the ones that were okay. but watching “waiting for superman” today, i witnessed first hand not just a few teachers, but a whole system that is defunct and in need of desperate change. more than anything, it was heartbreaking to see children who want to learn have to sit through something that reinforces to them that their ability to have an education is decided on nothing more than chance. i don’t know much about the charter school system, so i won’t make a judgment on what they do or do not do for students, but i do want to reflect a bit on public education as i understand it.

let’s start at the beginning – the “way it is” for public schooling. how does schooling work? well, it seems that you’re supposed to go to school every weekday (minus a few) for ten months of the year, learn something, and progress through a serious of stages with the hope of being better suited to contribute something to the world when you finish. great. so how do we do that? we bring these people in – qualified teachers – give them a document called the curriculum that tells them what to cover (in addition to a plethora of other booklets and papers), and hope they’ll produce something of value to present to the students coming into their classrooms. it all sounds simple enough, right? wrong.

when you’re a classroom teacher, you are asked to not only present information to students, it is implied that you will also develop the whole child, teach them transferable skills, be sensitive to their needs and their circumstances, work in partnership with their family and other staff, deal with the photocopier when it breaks down, use the newest educational lingo, attend a certain number of meetings, do supervision duty…oh, and you only have one year with your students. is this really the best way to go? so much of a teacher’s time is spent on things that often aren’t even related to teaching the students themselves. are we trying too hard to cram the profession full of extraneous things? how can we make the core of what we do effective while providing a relevant education for our students?

education is important, no questions asked. amongst other things, students need amazing teachers who are committed to providing that quality education through effective assessment and evaluation, working together, innovation in education, and clear and open communication. we need accountability in our schools, and perhaps that is where things get tricky. we have no direct, reliable and valid way of measuring how teachers are doing in their classrooms, and we need to keep in mind that we shouldn’t be encouraging teachers to all be the same. there are so many variables when it comes to education, and controlling it is not the way to bettering it, but we need to work towards improvement. our society is moving so quickly, and there is a huge need for innovation and for a competent, qualified workforce. beyond that, we also want communities that are active and thriving, where people are contributing positively and working together for the good of mankind.

at the end of the day, i’m both an optimist and a realist. i know change is happening, but it will take time. i constantly need to ask myself “what can i do to improve as a teacher, and what can i learn from those around me – both in and out of the field of education?” i’m all for dreaming big, and then figuring out the steps it will take to get there, and to stay there. hope you’ll join me.

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