Tis the season for wish lists. Yesterday, at lunch, my daughter was adding to her list — pondering the possibilities for gifts. As I watched her add several items (including an iPhone 5 — not happening), it got me thinking about things I would wish for my chosen profession, education. Here is my short list:
- Teachers Treated as Professionals – this entails many things, but primarily a recognition of the complexity of good teaching. Understanding students as individuals, and addressing their individual learning needs, is extremely challenging — especially when faced with large class sizes. Teachers should be expected to stay up to date on current teaching pedagogy and research, but they should also be given the time, and resources, to do this effectively. This includes a living wage.
- Recognition that Good Teaching is not just about Curriculum – while content is important, relationships, connections, and soft skills (i.e. empathy, collaboration, communication, leadership) are critical to the future success of our students. The current climate of testing and accountability does very little to encourage these essential elements of student success.
- Provide Adequate Resources - education should be a priority investment for our country. Instead, it often appears that the bar of expectations is raised without a subsequent increase in support. Whether it is time, teacher salaries, class size, counselors, or capital items, many of our schools are operating with painfully inadequate resources.
- Stop Talking about the Tests – if you are a part of the public education system in the United States, you know that it is impossible to escape the emphasis on standardized testing. Testing drives too many decisions, and monopolizes too much valuable time — especially given the fact that it does nothing to value, or measure, #2 on this list.
- Recognize that Poverty is a HUGE factor in Education - not all schools, or communities are created equally. You can argue about what the role of schools should be in meeting the needs of students, but that does not change the reality that educators must teach the students who walk through the front door (regardless of the baggage they bring with them). Students who come to school hungry, who fear neighborhood violence, who live in dysfunctional, or absentee, family environments, deserve a quality education. Providing meaningful learning opportunities requires schools to address the issues that create roadblocks using available resources (see #3).
- Less Fear, More Adventure – for students, and educators alike. Our school systems should foster a sense of adventure, a willingness to experiment. The appropriate, and meaningful, integration of technology should be seen as an obligation, not something to be overly filtered and blocked. Teachers should have the freedom to try new things, and students should be given opportunities to pursue personal interests without the looming shadow of concern cast by standardized testing (see #4).
What would be on your education wish list? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.