Change is inevitable. How we react to change is what forms us. Over the course of our nation’s history our education system has changed. Formal education began as being limited to a few participants growing into being available to all. Curriculum has evolved from the reading, writing, and arithmetic to preparing students for a future we have yet to envision. With all of the change happening, have we created schools that have the resources to educate students to society’s high demands?
I believe in educating the whole child and schools should not be academic factories. Beyond reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history, students need to be taught how to collaborate, problem solve, think critically, be contributing members of a democratic society, utilize technology, healthy living, and an appreciation for the arts. Schools must be places where students feel safe and their needs are being met. However, have we built buildings and equipped educators for all this?
School buildings go beyond the brick and mortar. Like our national infrastructure, many school buildings are old and constructed prior to the requirements of today’s technology, like wi-fi. Central heating and air condition are advancements of our modern times, and there are many schools which require this retrofitting. Additionally, the electrical wiring for many schools has to be updated to produce the voltage for operation of technology devices, not to mention the central heat and air conditioning systems. So, when we begin making expectations on schools, we need to ensure proper infrastructure to support change.
Beyond the physical building is what happens within the walls. The increase of mass shootings and suicide in our society it is evident our children need mental health support. However, teachers are not equipped with providing this. Training on classroom management and engaging instructional practices are appropriate expectations for teachers. Counseling should be provided by a professional with credentials in mental health. As we move forward, personnel and time in a student’s day must be in place to support mental well-being and coping skills.
In secondary schools, teachers are trained in a content area which they instruct. Though, in elementary schools teachers are trained as generalists to instruct all content areas. Teaching a child to become literate takes years of training and lots of skill, not to mention the finesse of being analytical problem solvers in math and inquiry researchers in science. It has become a practice that elementary teachers are specializing their content, but this is at a detriment to students’ developmental level and social-emotional needs. Not to mention, a research study by Harvard Professor Roland Fryer shows this format as less effective than having students with one teacher; see https://www.nber.org/papers/w22205.pdf. I am in favor of having music, art, physical education/health, and technology teachers on an elementary campus to support these curricular demands. Elementary teachers must be provided better preparation at the collegiate level as well as support via peers and trained instructional coaches once they enter the classroom.
As our views and expectations of education continue to change, so must the support we give to schools.