Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Play's the Thing (Act II)

I'm fortunate in my life to have crossed paths with so many wonderful mentors and friends in the education field. Hands-down, this is one of the most important fields to invest in. It is the foundation of everything our society is currently and is to become.

But I'm a little disheartened about the direction that education, essentially early childhood education (which I consider to be zero to about eight), may be headed. There is a lot of talk about meeting standards and the importance of state assessment scores.

Now, I firmly believe our country should strive to be one of the top education systems. And I understand there need to be assessments that produce data to provide to funders so the "circle of life" of education can continue.

But here are some other realities to note, according to the Huffington Post:
  1. The United States' education system is ranked 17th out of 40 developed countries
  2. Research (aka "data") has proven that just "throwing money at the problem" will not fix it! We need to invest--let me repeat--invest more than money into our education system, starting with respecting teachers as the professionals they truly are. (And, yes, "invest" is a word that can be used in tandem with nouns other than "money.")
How have we gotten so caught up in standards and data that we are missing the trees for the forest, so to speak? Our education system is functioning in such a way that we have forgotten some very critical elements about educating our youngest:
  1. We can't even possibly predict what kind of a world our under-eight set will be encountering when they enter the workforce, which means...
  2. We can't be assuredly confident of which industries will be in high demand at that time, so why do we feel we are "prepping them for their career path" at such a young age?
  3. Creativity will prevail eternally over all other skill sets because it allows you to be flexible and adaptable.
  4. There is no one-size-fits-all, boxed curricula that will work for every learner, EVER. Each child brings unique abilities, life experiences and learning styles into the classroom. Our job as educators is to respect that individuality and create a curriculum which encompasses it.

But before you start pointing the finger at teachers for what they aren't doing, remember they are essentially just following orders from the higher-ups in the education system who I'm willing to bet have rarely, if ever, set foot in a classroom as an adult (other than for PR purposes) and certainly have never wiped tears (or worse) from their sleeves on a daily basis, knowing it's just "part of the job."

Let's start respecting the importance of our education system and what it needs to be: child-directed, teacher-driven, creativity-encouraged!

"I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed!" --William Shakespeare