I read this excellent blog post from Sharon Elin the other night, and it really got me thinking. Don’t you just love to read a post that really makes you think?! In this post, Sharon lays out 5 things that she would do to change education. So, what would I do? The first thing I thought is that I would have “Kelly Hines, Queen of the Schools” printed on my business cards. Then again, I don’t really think that’s what she was hoping to solicit. But in all seriousness, what are some things that I would do to change education?
No More Textbooks!
In a time when schools are facing serious budget issues, we are all considering places where we can cut back. I just don’t understand why we are starting with instructional and support positions. In all of my experiences, children learn from people. A minute percentage of students can be handed a textbook and mastery any part of the concepts being presented. Each year, schools in the United States spend millions of dollars of hardcover textbooks that are used as a resource in teaching all sorts of content from grades K through 12. But why are we spending these millions of dollars on a resource that could be replaced with free, open-source software, internet content and creative teaching? I have taught in schools where I was required to teach word for word from a standardized textbook that was written for the masses. Was it entirely research-based, correlated to our state and national standards and meeting the needs of individual students? No. It cost a lot of money. I haven’t used a textbook in math, science or social studies in two years. Instead, I design rich and meaningful experiences for my students that engage them in learning. Instead of replacing textbooks each year, why don’t you just find me an additional teacher who will help provide more of these experiences for my students?
Administrators would visit classrooms every day!
I am fortunate to work in a school where I see my principal in my classroom almost every single day. She slides in to say Hello. She stops and talks to some special students, providing encouragement and a visual reminder of their own accountability. Sometimes she just sits down to listen, observe and participate. She doesn’t ask me questions; she asks the students! I have also worked in schools that were the polar opposite. My students could not have picked the principal out of a line-up of business suits. He was rarely in the building, let alone in my classroom. He had no context around which to base my formal observations, and I had to constantly explain everything I was hoping to do within an entire framework of what was going on inside my classroom walls. I think that it should be obvious which of these two schools is more successful – both in terms of community and of academics. Seeing my principal in my classroom and interacting with my students communicates the feeling that she values what is going on in the lives of her teachers and her students. This breeds buy-in and success!
No More Tenure!
I have been teaching for 10 years and have never achieved tenure. Whoa. Snicker snicker you might be thinking. I have moved a lot. So what? Not having tenure means what? I have to be observed four times per year? I am not “guaranteed” a job next year? I have to be on my best every day? I’m not sure where the problem is here. Why shouldn’t teachers be and feel accountable? The consequences of we, teachers, NOT being at our best is devastating.
Teachers Would Get Paid More!
Ok, ok. I’m a teacher. I’m married to a teacher. We don’t exactly have the bi bucks rolling into our house. It’s not that I want more, more, more. But think about it… How many teachers do you know that work two and three jobs to make ends meet? Too many… especially those who are first starting out. Our teachers come to work tired because they were waiting tables until midnight. Many can’t attend regular and applicable professional development opportunities because they are working these extra jobs. I will admit that I’ve been guilty of putting a kid on hold once or twice as I was checking my bank account online to figure out how much I could afford to pay the cafeteria for the kids’ lunch accounts. Based on a teacher’s sphere of influence and the importance of children receiving their education from a teacher who is at his/her best, I think easing the financial burden of educators is essential to finding and keeping the best teachers.
If you aren’t having fun and loving the kids, go home!