Hope for Public Education

I’ve worked a while now in public education (10 years), and I think things need to change.  Things absolutely have to change actually.  I am not bashing public education by any means.  I grew up in public education and believe that being surrounded by diversity and being aware of the challenges we all face, contributed to the empathetic person that I am today.  Do I think public education failed me in some ways?  probably.  Do I think public education is able to help kids who need it most?  we try really hard.  With the push from current administration to increase the privatization of schools and to take money from public education and give families the option to use private school vouchers is absurd in my opinion.   Why do we not instead truly work to upgrade what we already have?  Can’t we continue to improve in order to be the ones who help children to see life differently than what they currently see. To have hope for themselves and for their futures.

Working in an elementary school is by far one of the most exhausting jobs there is.  Most people don’t even have a moment to use the bathroom or to breathe.  This is what I see on a daily basis:  I see some happy teachers and lots of hard work.  I also see a staff that is burned out.  Teachers who are regularly disrespected by students.  Students who are mean to each other and have no idea how to communicate with each other.  I see staff who are completely overloaded.  It can be difficult to have a conversation without being interrupted 5 times.  It is rare to have the calmness of mind to have a conversation that is truly productive.   I see unrealistic expectations.  Teachers work 8-9 hours a day, and then are expected to work all evening long.  If you do, yay you get to be put on the good list! If not, well you are a slacker.  It’s not okay to have a balanced life.   This is not meant as a complain-fest, because I would gladly list as many positives that I see.  But I cannot pretend that the way our education system works is enough.  It’s not enough for progression to happen the way we need it to in order to give our children the best education possible.  But it is possible to make changes, it’s really all about priorities, isn’t it?

  1. Class sizes must be smaller.  There is no possible way to truly help all kids, when there are 25 students or more in a classroom.  It is running around like a chicken with your head cut off.
  2. Schools must higher additional mental health supports.  With the current mental health needs of kids in our country, this should be at the forefront! The ratio for school counselor to students is supposed to be 1:250.  At my school and at many schools it is 1:650.
  3. Consider what curriculum is truly needed for students.  By now, shouldn’t we have required classes at the elementary level that are based around life skills?  I mean on a daily basis allowing an hour block to talk about how to be a 21st century learner, social skills, finance, etc.   A 15-minute responsive classroom meeting and teaching about test taking skills isn’t going to cut it.  Students need to learn the basics of how to be learners and how to get along with others before they can do anything else.
  4. Parents and teachers must work together better.  This doesn’t happen enough.  I’ve seen it so many times, but it’s still a shock to me when parents blame teachers for a child’s bad behavior or poor performance.  It’s a group effort to raise and educate children.
  5. Provide teacher aids for teachers in K and 1 all day long, everyday.
  6. Let staff decide what professional development they currently need.  Give them some autonomy.  Life isn’t cookie cutter.
  7. Occasional breaks to take a breath and use the bathroom go a long way.
  8. Stop piling on more and more.  No one can do their best job when they have too much on their plate.   It’s time to get back to basics, and stop with all the show.
  9. Look at how much people in the medical field are paid for example.  We are educating the children of our nation and we get paid barely enough to purchase a house or pay off student loans.  Go to the doctor and they don’t offer much help really other than prescribing antidepressants and antibiotics, yet they have no worries of paying their own bills.  In schools we provide differentiated  interventions that actually work, but the compensation is not there.
  10. Not until adults stop bullying, will our kids ever stop bullying.   This is a learned behavior.

I am hopeful that things will improve for our students.  It starts with each of us doing what we do every single day.  More importantly,  It starts with not allowing status quo.