Let’s Update Education!

So earlier today I had a conversation in my head with several voices, ultimately leading me to arrive at the conclusion that I wanted to save education. And this was after only one cup of coffee!

Here is the crux of my thoughts: What do we want the U.S. system of education to look like at the end of the day? If we want to reform, what form are we trying to create?

As I spent the rest of the day working (re: taking care of my two kids), I made a mental log of questions that arose from the aforementioned questions. Here’s where my brain went:

  • What role do today’s schools play in our society?
  •  How can we better recruit, prepare, support, and retain teachers?
  • What do we want kids to know when they are handed their diplomas?
  • What does “preparing our students” look like or even mean?
  • How does accountability play a role in education?
  • For what are schools responsible?
  • Should the school environment as a whole be re-imagined?
  • What can we all agree on?

I also put on my mom-hat (re: yoga pants) and asked myself the following:

When my own kids go to school, what do I want for them? Here’s where my brain went:

  • I want them to feel safe, supported, and inspired.
  • I want their teachers to be happy, educated, professional people.
  • I want their classrooms to be clean, welcoming, and puts kids in the mood to learn.
  • I want them to learn to think. I mean really think. Inside, outside, and around the box kind of thinking.
  • I want them to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic, but I also want them to experience art, drama, music, science, technology, and government.
  • When they’re little, I want them to have a good, long recess. When they’re older, I want them to participate in clubs and on teams.
  • I want them to learn how to struggle and persevere, to cope with failure, and to handle success with grace.
  • I want my children to be happy. A huge part of their happiness will come from their experiences in school. That’s big.

That last bullet point made me realize something. In a year and a half, my daughter will enter kindergarten. My experience with education has always been as the caretaker of other people’s children. Pretty soon though, I will watch Z walk into someone else’s classroom and trust that she will receive the education I believe all of our kids deserve. Yikes. My concern for our education system isn’t just professional, it’s personal.

Another thought just occurred: does our system of education need saving? Is it in peril? I actually don’t think so. Perhaps we’re at a moment of upheaval, rather than danger? By saying I want to “save” education, have I internalized a sensationalized version of our system, one that depicts schools as broken and teachers as unaccountable, vacation-loving lag-abouts?

What if, rather than saving it, I re-frame my thinking to say we are looking to enrich our education system? To enhance it? Refine? Improve? Or even update?

The word “reform,” though technically apt, now carries a negative connotation with it. Even when referring to the abstract concept of education, “reform” carries a whiff of blame, a hazily-drawn finger pointing at “them.” I’m drawn to the word “update.” It places no blame on past versions, while promising something better. If Adobe Flash needs to be updated every hour (it seems), certainly our education system can be said to be in need of an update. AND NO ONE IS TO BLAME!

So, how can we update our system of education in the United States of America?

Let’s start at the very beginning: teacher recruitment and preparation. I know a bit about this topic, but I’m smart enough to know there are smarter people out there. I’m going to find their works, start reading, and I’ll report back in my next post.

Until then, stay warm out there, and enjoy!