So we’ve reviewed the reasons I fell in love with teaching, the troubles I’ve seen over the years and now we are at the “solutions.” I use that term broadly because I believe there is no perfect solution to the current state of education in America. If I knew the solution, I’d be famous! (ha!) However, there are specific areas that I believe could serve as a good starting point towards rebuilding the educational system. Here they are:
– Lessen the weight given to standardized tests. We have become so fixated on preparing for, administering and analyzing the loads of standardized tests we give to students, that we have created a testing environment. With the pressure of the testing on students’ graduation requirements and teachers’ evaluations, we are creating an atmosphere where humans will lean towards cheating and lying. Assessing students is necessary and it is something that should be taking place; however, there must be a balance so that testing does not take priority over developing a well-rounded student.
– Provide random observations of teachers to maintain accountability. It’s not a matter of “ha, we caught you.” It’s more a matter of getting a genuine picture of what is happening in classrooms. Most people can paint a pretty picture when an administrator sets up a time when they will be coming in to observe, but what is happening when it’s only the teacher in that room? This is important. Is the teacher effective in teaching the content? What classroom management skills do they possess? It is also key to have multiple individuals providing feedback to the teacher, such as: administration, coworkers, academic coaches, students and other members of the school community. Multiple perspectives help to provide more authentic feedback for the teacher to grow from.
– Be open about the impact of home life on the school setting. We cannot constantly blame teachers for what’s happening in schools. Every day children are coming to school, whether it’s the 3-year-olds or the 21-year-olds, with a backstory. Something, good or bad, happened that morning…the evening before…at dinner time. Both “rich” schools and “poor” schools have children who have experienced something that week that is impacting their ability to focus on the task of learning. If we continue to ignore the significance of home life, we are fooling no one but ourselves. It is also key to have parents playing an active role in their child’s education. That role is not to blame teachers, nor their child – the role is to work with the teachers and their child. And being active doesn’t just mean showing up at school functions, it is also monitoring homework and genuinely inquiring about the school day on a regular basis.