Getting Down to Business: Tackling the REAL Issues

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As I was getting ready to publish this blog, I came across THIS article.  My disdain for Mrs. DeVos as the Secretary of Education is clear, but despite the degree of sourness I am learning to accept the final decision which was made.
No, Betsy DeVos doesn’t have experience.  And, yes, vouchers are a horrible ill-thought out idea.  But there comes a time when we need to accept that our ideals are not what the majority decided was best and move forward seeking common ground in another way.
Having said that, after watching Mrs. DeVos’ address to the Education Staff, I stand slightly bit more at ease with her approval vote.  It sounds like she has a bit more understanding of the enormity of her position and that she is merely one person in a team of educators responsible for “making education great again.”  Or, maybe  I’m just too hopeful.  Either way, though, perhaps it was not her that our education system needed to improve but, instead, the firestorm of of passion that resulted that needed to be ignited in order to start a constructive dialogue as to what really needs to happen to better our state of education.  If so, then so be it… let’s get to work now.
We need a plan of action.  (I’d suggest that one of the reasons why MANY people didn’t and still don’t like this new woman in charge is that she didn’t have such a plan, and only regurgitated vague lines ‘passion for change.’)  We need an action plan… to tackle the real problems.  And vouchers, as she dreams,  don’t tackle don’t do that.
In order to create such a plan, we need to identify these REAL problems.  So WHAT are the they??  I ran across this article by a one Jody Stallings that summarized the issues quite succinctly:
  1. Student discipline.
  2. Parental support.
  3. Administrative power and teacher discretion.
I might add another one to the list– teacher support.  We start with this one because it’s really one that the others are rooted in.  Both sides of the divide have made it clear that the students are the focus, but as one teacher-author from Kiddom App put it, “Whoever our next Secretary of Education is, they need to advocate for all of our children and our teachers…” Note the “…and our teachers…”  Nobody knows our students better than those who are boots on the ground with them on a daily basis.
It’s important to listen to the teachers and to take into serious account any and all of their concerns.  If you don’t, then you will end with dire situations like that in Florida… teacher’s burning out due to low pay, under-appreciation, and ridiculous standardized-testing protocol.  And that severely affects the students because they are losing their support systems that are the teachers.

So what does Teacher Support look like?  

The answer to that question comes in one word… resources.  Resources, resources, resources.

  1. Technological Resources.  Teaching is most definitely an art, not a science.  And yet the bombardment of teaching pedagogies and ‘best practices’ is overwhelmingly unreal. Teachers hear a lot about the use of technology (by which they mean computers and iPads and the like) to engage students’ learning.  Truly, there are many amazing games and apps (see: Kahoot! and Socrative as only two examples), but the accessibility to resources is unreliable.  Issues lie in uneven funding to secure equipment for schools, unreliable access to wi-fi, and/or maintenance of computer equipment.  Perhaps a solution to this lies in increased community/business partnerships within education, but I digress… that’s a different soapbox.
  2. Parental Resources. As a teacher myself, I would have to argue that the BIGGEST mode of support you can give teachers is to support the parents.  Teachers hardly plan supportive parents anymore. These “personal student support structures” are hardly home anymore, most specifically in lower socioeconomic areas, due to the fact they are working multiple jobs just to put a roof over their child’s head.  Read more here. Teachers understand this which is why they very often find themselves in the role of teacher AND parent.  THAT.  Is a very much overwhelming responsibility.  How can we help the parents so that they can actually have time to spend with their families… and “parent”??  Answer this question and you may just find the answer to other problems such related to student discipline.  Now, lets get to work and DO THIS!

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Carney, J. (2017, February 07). Franken: DeVos ‘fundamentally incompetent’ to lead Education Dept. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/318198-franken-devos-fundamentally-incompetent-to-lead-education-dept
H. (n.d.). DeVos nomination stands at 50-50. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/susan-collins-betsy-devos-confirmation-234497
Hertz, M. B. (2014, April 24). Appreciate Teachers By Understanding What They Do. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/appreciate-teachers-by-understanding-mary-beth-hertz?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow
Mista, Y. (2017, February 03). Let’s Not Lose Focus. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://blog.kiddom.co/lets-not-lose-focus-4b10ad883b86#.7kzck7a33
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Social Reform: The Next Wave of Education Reform

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This is an open letter to Florida’s Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, as well as other political representatives.  With the election season as it played out from the very beginning, I’d long come to a to terms accepting the outcome for whatever it ended up being regardless of my own voting preferences.  But now with the pending appointment as the Secretary of Education being who it is, it is time to step up and give voice to something that we can more readily control.  

This is an URGENT message requesting you to VOTE NO in approving Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education.  This billionaire woman has NO experience anywhere as an educator and is not a supporter of public education.

Her position in pushing voucher programs and making school’s more competitive is not the next wave in education reform.  While the education system is still not perfect, it is MUCH better than it used to be.  Have you considered that maybe it’s no longer teacher training and school improvement that needs to change?  Well, voucher programs that “make schools more competitive” is not the solution to nation’s educational concerns because teachers are working their butts off and even spending their own money to ensure each child gets what they need to be successful.  Schools are making vast improvements with the limited resources they have, as well.  No tangible results would  be seen  from competition because there are other dire factors that are involved in how we experience new things and in our ability to take in new information.

Instead, the next wave of education reform needs to be focused  social reform.  Teachers can work as hard as they can and schools can provide free/reduced lunch, but that doesn’t solve the problem that kiddos are not getting basic survival necessities AT HOME.  If kids have to worry about taking taking care of their siblings until mom or dad get home at 6 or 7 pm, then that leaves little time for them to clean themselves and finish their own homework before bed time.  Let’s also talk about those same students not having access to wi-fi/computers to finish said homework because mom and dad’s 2-3 jobs barely cover the cost of ensuring a roof over their heads.   And, by the way, that roof (in districts such as Osceola and Orange Counties) is often that of an extended stay hotel.  There are schools, including my own, that are actually nicknamed “the hotel school” because many students (large) families live in such facilities that line corridors like State Road 192.

Many people will argue that it’s up to the teachers to overcome such student adversities.  Well, teachers can only do so much!  And they already work their tails off to the point of exhaustion.  Well, when students are having to worry about concerns like those mentioned above, a teacher can plan the BEST and MOST engaging lesson on the planet but if students’ heads are not in the right place because they have other responsibilities and/or lack the time/resources to do what they need to for school THEN, of course, they will be disengaged. It’s called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and all psychologists AND teachers are more than familiar with it.  People can’t concentrate on the next step unless their most basic needs are met first.  As a teacher who’s worked in and networked with several different districts before, I KNOW teachers are brilliant and creative and doing the best they can, but they need help.  Families need help.  And that’s why the next step in education reform MUST be social reform.  This is truly an urgent matter, and we need someone in leadership that truly understands and gets it.  However, Besty DeVos is NOT that person.