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“Did I do it right?”

As we were on our morning bike ride and walk, our four-year-old stopped just up ahead and of me. He waited until I caught him to him and then looked at him with a glint in his eye, “Did I do it right?” he asked me. I waited unsure of what he was talking about until he explained that he kept his eyes on the road, he stayed to the side and when he glanced back and saw that he was getting too far ahead he stopped and waited. I smiled and affirmed, “Yes, yes you did. Good job, buddy!”

These are all the things we have been talking about over the last six weeks as we have transitioned from walking together to walking and bike riding together. These are all things that have caused redirections when he didn’t do one of these things as well.

I can’t help but wonder if his question today, is really a question that most of us parents are asking ourselves: “Did I do it right?” Should I have enrolled my child in school? Should I have homeschooled instead? Should I have provided more space or more boundaries?

The back and forth and constant mitigation of risks is exhausting. The collective grief of hearing story after story of people dying because of the global pandemic is overwhelming. We are all functioning on too little sleep and too much stress.

“Did I do it right?” will be a question that we can continue to ask ourselves as we continue to understand more about this virus and about how living with this virus is changing the way that we parent, work, and educate our children.

As you are trying to balance it all, I wonder if the words that I offer our four-year-old when he doesn’t do it right might provide some peace, “Tomorrow is a new day and we will try again.”

 

Why We Can’t Open Communities of Faith or Schools

This week the stark contrast of what we have valued as a country has become crystal clear.

We concentrated our initial reopening efforts not on opening the communities where our children learn and people gather together to be in the community together to gain hope and healing, but instead restaurants, bars, and beaches. Our top priority was getting back to entertainment, not education.

To be certain, America is an entertainment-driven society. Our economy depends on our desire to distract ourselves. The average teacher makes $60,477. The average NBA player makes $6.7 million. The average MLB $4.4 million. The average well-known actor makes $15million. The average clergy makes $32,000-$48,000.

Now that we have reopened, our numbers are climbing nationwide. The number of cases is climbing. The number of hospitalizations is climbing.  As we approach the end of the summer, suddenly our collective attention is directed on opening schools. We understand that if schools can’t open if we end up with virtual schooling, we are going to have overtaxed parents and families. We realize now that we focused our reopening efforts on entertainment over education.

As the weight and the toil of living in the midst of a global pandemic and a racial reckoning bear down, we realize that we need hope. We need spiritual guidance because we are mentally, spiritually, and psychologically exhausted from all the uncertainty and living with collective trauma and grief. Voices are calling out for churches to reopen because we know that we need each other. We know that we need hope. Even as some voices call out to reopen, other voices recognize where we are. We are at a place where we have valued escaping from our reality for a trip to the beach and a night out at a restaurant or a bar over coming to terms that we will not return to “normal” in the foreseeable future. We have valued escapism over compassion.

And so here we are.

Government leaders are threatening to remove funding from schools if they don’t open up. Government agencies are threatening lawsuits if schools don’t reopen. This is after political leaders ordered churches to open. As we get closer and closer to the fall, we are realizing that when we value entertainment over education.

We are left without the covering that schools offered as they fed the one and nine children who live with food insecurity every day, twice a day, and sent food home. We are realizing that without schools, we don’t have low-cost, reliable childcare for working parents. We are realizing that we have put the pressure on schools to be the savior and stopgap of a broken system for far too long.

As numbers continue to rise numbers and the possibility of having a loved one die alone in the hospital and the fear for our lives for much longer continues to live with us, we realize that we value escapism over compassion. Churches and communities of faith, driven by their moral codes and caring for those in need have guided and challenged our culture of consumerism.

As churches are deemed a major source of COVID-19 exposure, we realize how important coming together each week reminding ourselves that this one life that we have to live is not about gaining more stuff, a bigger house, or a cruise around the world, but instead about caring for each other. We are in a religious awakening.

Our eyes have been opened.  As a society, we value entertainment over education and escapism over compassion.

The question is now that our eyes have been opened, will our hearts be?

I am finished with internships forever

I just counted.

I’ve been an intern 9 times. 6 of those without pay. 3 of those for more than 40 hours a week.

In college because I was an elementary education major, internships or practicums were part of the requirement. As I rushed between classes and fulfilling the 20 hour practicum requirement, I was frustrated by the number of tickets I received finally explaining to the campus police that there was no feasible way that I could mark in my assigned parking lot and make it to class and to the classroom for my internships. No day passes they explained, but I could change my parking sticked permanently if I wanted, so I did and walked half a mile to my campus apartment everyday so that I could complete my internships.

When I was a senior and my fellow seniors were enjoying their last days as college students with their light loads and tons of free time, my cohort and I were driving sometimes 3 hours a day to work as teachers. 40 hours a week, plus commuting, plus grading and planning and class. In addition, to pay for the gas and food I had to take on a tutoring job and work as a RA for my apartment building. There were many nights I would close the RA office at 12 and wake up at 4:45 am to get to school an hour away on time. There was one week I slept 18 hours for the whole week, so that I could complete my internship.

When I went to work as a English Teaching Assistant in Germany, the story was the same. Many hours. Set stipend. Add more jobs. All so that I could complete my internship.

When I returned from Germany, I worked as a UELIP intern in DCPS. I paid rent and bought groceries and paid for gas even though I wasn’t earning a cent in my 60 hour a week internship. I remember walking in my first day and my supervisor saying, “Thank goodness, the summer interns are here. We can actually get caught up.” Great for them, but overwhelming for me. But I did it, finding extra jobs all so that I could finish my internships.

You get to a point where you begin to question whether the idea that if you get a good internship, you will get a good job and be promoted because of the experiences and the connections you have made can in any way be true.

Then, I decided to switch tracks and pursue ministry. In other words, all those internships, all those hours, all those oatmeal meals, counted for nothing. I was going to have to start all over.

I’m two internships into this career path and I’m finding the same thing to be true. When you are labeled “intern,” people just expect that you can add items to your to-do list because you received a stipend. You’ve been paid, so what’s the problem? The problem is this. I’m going to school full-time, working another job and working this internship and still have to take out student loans and use every bit of credit I can find to make ends meet. Even though you don’t understand that and don’t see me, I will still do my best work even if it’s more than we initially agreed upon and way, way more work and time than you think it is, all so I can finish the internship.

And so that I can finish internships forever.

Are schools the next big market?

It’s not surprising to find that education is a huge market:

The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.

I’d be wiling to bet that teachers aren’t going to get a cut at all of this.

Teacher Affiliates

In a recent board meeting, I heard the phrase “teacher affiliate.” Having been to Affiliate Summit, my ears perked up and I wondered if my worlds were colliding.

Here’s how this works in the teaching world:

There are national professional development groups.

These groups need teachers as members.

Therefore, they national professional development groups form state affiliates.

These state affiliates are responsible for recruiting members and holding state conferences.

And the national professional development group.

Simple enough, right?

Well, if you have a background in performance marketing, then yes, but if you don’t, then it’s like stabbing in the air hoping that you land 75 members every year so that you have a budget for the following year.

But, then again performance marketing and teaching are separate fields. They don’t pertain to each other.

Synergistic Experience

I’ve been on enough runs that I know a good one within the first couple of steps. I know whether my breathing is labored or whether it feels like my legs are stuck in molasses. When either of these things are off, then I know that the run is going to be one that I just have to make it through rather than one that I enjoy.

But when my legs aren’t heavy and my breathing is syncing with my steps, then I experience a synergistic experience that allows my thoughts to clear and my creative juices to begin to flow.

As I have been going back and forth with other educators via Twitter about the impact of Common Core, I can’t help but wonder if the fall holds more expectations to abide strictly by CCSS, which will weigh down teachers are they try to foster creative curators in their classrooms.

Can CCSS really be a synergistic experience that includes individuality and digital literacy or is it laboring our classroom time with an atmosphere that makes it hard to catch our breath?

Marketing Shift

New forms of labeling students like Common Core, don’t change the underlying assumption:

In education, as in society, holding individuals accountable for their actions is a powerful paradigm within a meritocracy. If all is equitable, then human choices and behaviors are more easily assigned in a causational way to individuals. Political and public discourse as well as social and education policy work within an accountability paradigm based on the assumption that the U.S. is a meritocracy.

And therein lies fundamental errors in claims about equity in the U.S.: Accountability without meritocracy is not only flawed but a mechanism for entrenching inequity.

Education reform, then, must reject the accountability paradigm, and then embrace an equity paradigm as a reform strategy seeking the possibility of achieving a meritocracy.

Common Core isn’t a paradigm shift. It’s a marketing shift, so that teachers will stop complaining.

If we want our students to be critical creators, we too have to analyze what’s being marketed as “good” teaching.

Regulate regulations

Really, Congress can’t regulate? Maybe not directly, but certainly indirectly they have!

To backtrack: the Common Core State Standards are not federal standards. After all, the U.S. Constitution gives Congress no authority to fund or regulate schools or control curriculum, standards, or policy. But at its annual fall meeting in 2008, after previous informal discussions, the Council of Chief State School Officers—with input from some state governors—formally decided to come up with some uniform standards to get more low-performing students into college courses without needing remedial courses once they got there. What’s now known as the Common Core is a set of standards that its supporters, including the Council and the National Governors Association, think will better prepare k–12 students for college and careers.

Yes, because the National Governors Association certainly knows how to better prepare k-12 students.

Better PD

Isn’t it sad that we can all identify with the chart paper PD?

That’s right.  This isn’t just your average “show up for a few hours and write on chart paper”-type training event.  ”Apple Cores” as we call them, are put through an intense experience of collaboration, sharing, and even….*gasp*…failing.

This is one that so many PD sessions forget to include:

4. Treat them like professionals.

This one is the easiest to do, but actually might take a little bit of budget, which we are all short of.

Maybe it’s not the subject of your PD and maybe it’s not the place of your PD that is causing it to fail. Maybe instead it’s the attitude that your PD trainers are carrying into the session. You know the one where they have something to coach teachers on. The one that makes teachers feel even more undervalued and invisible than the current educational context makes them feel.

Maybe it’s that attitude that you know what teachers “need” that is making your PD session irrelevant.

And maybe instead, you should actually ask teachers what they need.