Growing up in Port Angeles, I had excellent teachers at Jefferson Elementary School who enriched, expanded, and taught everything from reading, writing, social studies, science, and mathematics, to music, art, and square dancing! I continued to be the lucky participant of a solid and most probably, better than average, public school education through high school. Like many of us, my views of public education grew from my experience.
Fast forward fifteen years. I again found myself in public education, this time not as a student, but as a classified employee, working as an para educator in a high school with students receiving special education services. Now, with many students, I began experiencing continued failure and underachievement. School became the constant race to catch-up from behind, the bewilderment of not knowing why everyone else seemed to be better at this, the repeatedly reinforced feeling of being stupid.
So, I became an Educational Therapist, and learned to turn this picture around for all ages of students, who experienced all sorts of learning challenges, from dyslexia, language delays, motor delays, difficulties with perception and focus, and more. In my private practice, I could facilitate remediation and learning, often times, in one or two or months of twice weekly one-on-one sessions. I taught workshops for parents and teachers, eager to share the successful tools I had found. I thought perhaps public education needed some competition from charter schools, especially school specializing in serving different types of learners.
Fast forward another fifteen years. I became a classroom teacher. I taught as a substitute, in many classrooms, and as a teacher for several years. I experienced education from yet another perspective. Teacher certification now requires paying for and passing many standardized tests. Students must pass standardized tests. Teachers have less resources, more students.
What do I know? I know everyone can learn, and achieve, most times, beyond what we expect. If we expect less, we set up learning for less - less support for students, less support for teachers, less support for schools. To really change our schools and our educational system requires us to change how our society creates and reinforces inequalities of healthcare, mental health services, nutritious foods---especially for our children. Education will not be improved by standardized tests, by breaking teacher unions, or by blaming parents. Education will be improved when we truly value each child as our own, and change our priorities to match our values.
Meanwhile, read tomorrow's post about JUMP math!