I am a passionate supporter of educators, all educators.
There is an urgent need to improve the educational experience of our students, this is not hyperbole, it is simply the truth.
Let’s be honest-
We are plagued with high student (and teacher) absenteeism, low graduation rates, drastic variances on the value of a high school diploma, and unprecedented levels of student stress and trauma. Sadly, this is not an exhaustive list of all barriers hindering the access to high quality education for all students. ALL Students. There is also:
outdated and insufficient curriculum
lack of rigor
low expectations for students
lack of or misappropriation of school funding
outdated district and union policies
inadequate access to content for our students with learning, language, and foundational disabilities and disadvantages
I could continue the list by discussing the lack of culturally responsive and relevant content and teaching, the lack of efficacy in practice, the inability to fill science and math positions, but I am not writing this to rehash all we know about the struggles we face in our schools each day. I want solutions. Realistic, long-lasting, achievable answers.
Don’t we all?
If we all know the problems that plague our education system as a whole, why have we been unable to truly impact change? Throwing money at the problem hasn’t worked. Introducing flashy interactive boards, computer labs, and one to one initiatives hasn’t worked. The utilization of charter schools, and school choice to raise the bar on traditional districts hasn’t worked.
The essential levers of change, whose absence hinders our ability to offer access to high quality education for all students, are access to high quality content and teacher efficacy. These two levers can create a ripple effect that permeates the sea of barriers, shifting the tides in our favor.
The weight of changing the paradigm of teaching and learning falls on the shoulders of our teachers.
If we wait…..
until all of our districts recognize and right the crippling practices and procedures that impede change
until all of our schools are lead by effective autonomous school leaders
until our institutions of higher education produce enough highly prepared educators to fill our classrooms and leadership roles
WE WILL HAVE LOST THE OPPORTUNITY TO POSITIVELY IMPACT THE LIVES OF AN ENTIRE GENERATION OF STUDENTS.
So if top down initiatives do not work, let’s support current teachers to create change from their classrooms up.
I am not the first person to say this: We need to rethink professional learning for educators and create a system of sustainability where we all really become lifelong learners. Enough with the one and done trainings. Enough with the ‘let’s learn the newest ed tech bling, app, online game, etc.’ without any reflection on whether or not it will effectively impact student learning or just be another flashy teacher observation lesson pulled out for evaluations. We need to reimagine teaching and learning with embedded, in person real time support. We need to foster a process and attitude of open door, anytime, sharing of practices. We need to build capacity by teaching and supporting induction, instructional, reading, math, and technology coaches to truly be coaches.
Professional learning needs to be a fluid, every day experience, not an event or day or session in isolation, but an integral part of a teacher’s day.
I can imagine a world where we have supported effective teachers in every classroom, in every district. A world where our best teachers do not flock to suburban districts, where our urban districts do not start each school year with vacancies, and where all schools have the capacity to build a legacy of well educated students. That is my happy place, but all the while I am aware that even our best teachers are often ill equipped to do their best work. Quality content and curriculum is expensive either monetarily or in an investment of time. Student access to rigorous, relevant, culturally sensitive content is often reliant on their zip code. Tragic. Is it no wonder that we have ever growing achievement gaps between our best served and our most needy students?
It is not all bleak in our world of education. We are on the brink of revolutionary times. Educators across the country are cautiously engaging in personalized learning and reimagining their role and the role of their students’ in learning. Shifting views on the use of technology in the classroom, the open educational resources movement and the creation of online learning platforms are great opportunities to give ‘access to high quality curriculum’ to those who have not had it before.
Now imagine a world where classrooms are filled with effective teachers, high quality curriculum and students engaging in personalized learning environments. A world where their needs are met, they are challenged and vested in their learning, working towards attaining the skills they need to be successful today and always.
What could you do today that makes this a reality tomorrow?