Monday, August 13, 2012

Who will change school?

There are a lot reasons why school needs to change. If we're not changing, we aren't improving.

But who is responsible for making changes? I've talked to frustrated teachers who say that picky parents are the problem; I've talked to frustrated parents who say that fossilized teachers are the problem, and I've talked to students who say that neither their teachers or parents are meeting their needs.

Teachers don't lack the research and direction to improve school, but they do largely lack the courage. The public doesn't lack the courage but they do largely lack the research and direction. Together, parents, teachers and students must work together and support each other in making school a better place.

I've been a teacher longer than I've been a parent, so I have spent more time and effort encouraging teachers to make school different and better; however, I'm recently finding myself spending more time and effort encouraging parents to challenge traditional School. There are likely two reasons for this:
1. My daughter Kayley is entering Kindergarten this September and I find myself thinking a lot about how I will work with her teachers to make school different and better. 
2. For the past two years, I have taught in a children's inpatient psychiatric assessment unit where I have worked with children who are abused and neglected, and many of them have been wounded by school. During this time, I've worked with parents and teachers so that they could better meet their children's complex needs.
When I was reading Madeline Levine's book Teach Your Children Well, I found myself struck by this:
Parents are often willing to make changes faster than the institutions around them. The pace of institutional change can be positively glacial compared with the vigor of a parent who feels his or her child is in jeopardy.  
Many of us have experienced the bureaucratic friction that large systems develop. Apathy and cynicism are as predictable as they are unfortunate; however, we must remember that all revolutions are impossible until they happen. Always remember this:
"The most common way people give up power is by believing they don't have any." (Alice Walker)


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  2. Madeline Levine says

    We have bought into this system not because we are bad people or are unconcerned about our children’s well-being, but because we have been convinced that any other point of view will put our children at even greater risk.”

    How can we show parents otherwise ?

  3. I am reposting this comment as it got stuck in iPad land and was incomplete so here goes -

    It is great to see this post Joe! Things are changing. Two years go if there was any post like yours it was scarce and far between. It is encouraging that you have recognized the important role that parents play in facilitating educational change. Every dollars and cent that you spend to provide professional development for parents will give a huge ROI to everyone. When I make that comment all too often I get " but only a few parents show up at a meeting why should we bother" and I answer " Parents see education from a different perspective than educators. Have you asked parents what they need in order to contribute?"

  4. Great post. I completely agree with you regarding the slow change of large educational systems. Parents are a critical partner in improving schools.
    I would challenge you on the statement that teachers have the research and direction to improve schools; I do not see this. Personally, I would love to have leaders (school, district and provincial levels) share this research in more coherent ways and obvious locations. I don't feel that I have the time to sift through it all myself.
    Finally, what do you mean that children who you have worked with in pyschiatric care are frequently "wounded" by school?


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