13 August 2015

In Response to Replies About Changing the American Public Education System

Within minutes of my blog posting yesterday I began receiving messages from friends, Twitter followers, colleagues and other blog readers. Most concerning to me was a private comment from someone (not a teacher) who said my attitude toward teachers is negative since teachers are part of the system I propose we change. A few thoughts: A) I taught high school students for nearly 12 years before leaving the classroom for other education related positions B) I am married to a teacher  C) I know many teachers who agree with me that the system needs to change because it's too focused on test preparation and not focused enough on learning and finally D) I work with teachers on a regular basis and have developed strong professional relationships with many in my state and across the country. I am a huge fan of teachers, and I understand how difficult teaching can be, especially teaching in schools with little autonomy or support.

After reflecting on yesterday's post overnight, I happened upon this article earlier this morning when I was catching up on reading. In Tom VanderArk's Education Week Column, Nicholas Donahue writes about why parents should support student-centered learning. Pertinent to consider because parents (and community members) are part of the overall education system. As parents we too often find ourselves nostalgic for the past and we sometimes say "the way we did it worked for me, so it's fine for my son or daughter." But, not all of us say that all the time. Some of us have begun to recognize the larger shift that must take place in the traditional system. Even if it's a system where our children are fine (as Donahue asserts is the case for his daughters and I concur the same for my sons), we must ask:  Is fine is good enough?

Granted, this is a difficult conversation. For us as parents. For our children who have learned well how to play the game of school. As with many things in life we find challenging, the struggles are worth it. We can have children/teens who are deeply engaged and owning their learning--the successes and the failures--and it will be worth it when we do.