A new school year will begin in a week. I get excited this time of year as I anticipate all the possibilities a new school year brings. Teaching is an amazingly fulfilling career. Each school year is like beginning a new job. You have all new students in your classroom to reach, new content to teach and new opportunities to utilize. I am as excited as the kids the night before school begins. I can’t sleep in anticipation.
Therefore, it is not difficult to understand my disdain with the fact that public education unfairly tends to become the convenient punching bag for political gain. I believe the goal of education exceeds providing a "free, appropriate public education". It is the role of educators to provide avenues for students to learn; preparing them to become productive, contented members of society. Finding new ways to reach children through different methods should be paramount to educators today and with effective teachers (and there are so MANY of them) this becomes second nature.
What ties the hands of these successful teachers? New federal mandates and excessive testing have created a climate where attaining high test scores overrides teaching the child. I acknowledge the necessity for accountability. I just don’t believe the path we have chosen to do so is beneficial. There are better ways to create accountability without high stakes testing and without politicians (instead of educators) creating education reform.
Education is not only the responsibility of the school. Bonds between the school, home and community are necessary for success. Therefore the school should embrace and promote programs which connect the stakeholders in the community to the school. This becomes the win-win situation all schools so greatly desire. Finding a successful formula melding these different groups has been elusive, yet I applaud the attempts by several local school districts to integrate the community into the schools. This speaks volumes to the vision of the school leadership.
The mission of education is to create independent learners; children who naturally want to learn and continue learning after they leave the walls of the schoolhouse. This desire to learn should be fostered in the school setting and not squelched. Providing a safe and open environment where learning can take place seems to be the first step. This may seem a simplistic philosophy, but it should be the goal in which all educators, parents and community members are striving to fulfill.
As the new school year begins and I consider my own expectations, I challenge each of you, whether parent, grandparent, community member, or concerned citizen to do the same. Think of your role in the education of the young people in your life and determine to make a difference.
This I know for sure....