If I Could Change How Schools Work…

School

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Topic Idea Question: If you could change how schools work, what would you change? What is wrong with how public education for kids is structured? What works well? What specific things about school do you remember, good and bad?

To really illustrate what I feel is wrong with our school system I have to go back in time a bit and go over my own personal experiences a bit, that of fellow students (from the past to the here and now), and a few other sources of info I found out about the educational system overtime. Please keep in mind, I might fudge the lingo a bit. I can be a bit forgetful in regards to terminology, but I’ll try my best to explain what I mean. And I am speaking from a slightly bias view due to the region where I spent MOST of my life growing up, but I do feel you can find some of these same elements in some of the other schools as well, if not all in some way shape or form. Also I’m FAR from being an expert on any or all of this so please keep that in mind.

In no real particular order, this is just an organized list for my sake:

1. From my experience from Kindergarten, Middle School, and up to High School I think one issue with schools is we REQUIRE more teachers that ACTUALLY – WANT to teach, not just teaching because they feel they HAVE to now that they got that B.A. in Art, or whatever it might be. Their life doesn’t have to be simply defined by, “I have to be a teacher now because that’s all I can become with THIS degree I have”. It’s VERY important to have teachers who actually WANT to be at a school and actually have a PASSION for teaching. These are the teachers who will be able to weather even the WORST of students.

2. Another element that is very important to a successful school and happy students is helpful, POSITIVE, STAFF – MEMBERS. I actually heard from a few lower class-men still going to the High School that the thing that made them HATE going to school the MOST was the Staff! The Staff essentially made some students lives a living nightmare! Yikes! No student should feel school is a scary place, BULLIES are BAD enough.

The adult Staff members don’t need to add to that stress not to mention they should KNOW better. Aren’t they suppose to conduct themselves much more professionally and rise above the petty attitudes of some of the more troublesome students? I thought they are SUPPOSE to BE an example to students of the type of people they might desire to be like. This probably lead to some students feeling….

Image via Wikipedia

Like no one cared about them, especially if they had horrible home-lives and may be cause for why many students simply “Dropped out”. I read an article when I came back to visit my mother last year during Spring about how the Principle or Superintendent tried to simply blame the schools failure on purely the “Students” who were dropping out. “Of course! There can’t be any fault in YOUR system! It’s perfect! You can’t be to blame! Not in the least! It’s ALL the students faults!” Ye-ah, if I were still in school I think I’d be bringing this up at one of those “PTA Meetings” or something of that nature like the “Education Board” of the local area. However, since I’m not in school anymore I’m not certain my voice would have much impact as an Alumni.

But I suppose you never know till you try and I’d want to take a survey first of how many students actually WANT to drop out of School because of some of these elements and more.

3. State and Local Educational boards need to be made aware of how they are failing their students and the parents of these students and some definite education reform for some, if not all, Washington Schools should be required, given they do not meet the standard for higher education.

4. Despite it was rescinded after they found many students FAILED the test (Gee what a surprise after all that talk about preparing us for this test) standardized tests such as the W.A.S.L. should not be given unless the students are TRULY prepared by the State Educational System. This means possibly taking “Mock” tests to see how are students are doing, where they are at in their learning, and would tell us where improvement is required.

Doing surveys asking students, “What are you learning? Do you feel you are understanding the material presented to you? If not, what subjects are you struggling in if any?” I feel something like this would help IMMENSELY and give us a FAR better idea of what we are missing as educators.

De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.

Image via Wikipedia

Now I got to take this test, the W.A.S.L., when they were just FIRST introducing it and it wasn’t MANDATORY to pass it. It was just the YEAR before they decided to make it where you had to pass all sections in order to graduate – thankfully. I knew the W.A.S.L. (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) was a bad idea from the “get-go”. There were many students divided into different levels of learning at my High School (we were also on a trimester basis, which meant every three months we changed classes). These classes were designed for students who grasped certain subjects a bit slower and took their time to learn them.

Which these students would NOT be on par with those who were taking the full on regular normal Math, Science, English, or History classes. I can’t tell you how often I remember hearing our teachers saying, “Now this sample question was taken from the W.A.S.L. so you might see something similar on the actual test itself.”

Ha! Ye-ah, no. Even despite all the talk from our teachers about these supposed sample questions were SUPPOSE to help us understand what MIGHT be on the W.A.S.L., it didn’t. When I got to the W.A.S.L. I felt horribly under-prepared. I wished I had taken one of those prep-classes for it, but I was stressed enough with too much in my Senior year. I definitely feel if they wanted to better prepare us for the W.A.S.L. they shouldn’t have given us questions that were 10 years old if that maybe 20.

I think the closer it was to our frame of time the better some of us might have ACTUALLY done (and it would have been actually relevant). Much can change in 10 -20 years so students classwork material & Statewide tests should ALWAYS be kept relatively up to date. This includes even their study books…>

Books

Image via Wikipedia

5. Many of our study books had to be 10-20 years old. Some of them DEFINITELY looked it and when you read them, read like it. I had a VERY difficult time trying to read through some of my chapters out of my Science book because it was LITERALLY putting me to sleep. I’ve never had a book BORE me so much that it made me start to drift off to sleep. If your study books are putting your students to sleep, without the regular normal student excuses, I think it’s time to change your books and course material so it all fits together.

I know it’s a lot of hard work but if you want something to work, you gotta work hard to ensure that it does. For the record, when I took a college level Chemistry class, I actually enjoyed reading my course material because it was relevant and new. Just goes to show how big a difference small things can make.

6. Additionally, I feel my old High School needs to be demolished and rebuilt. The problem? Structurally some of the buildings I’m not too certain are sound and the Auditorium is one of those few places to be sure. But our biggest problem yet as to why we can’t do this? We have too many students and we can’t ship them all off to the next High School because it is at least an hour to an hour and a half drive away from town, not to mention they have their own students that attend and I don’t know what the student population is like.

Stockwell Green Demolition

Image by sarflondondunc via Flickr

This town seriously REQUIRES two new High Schools, but apparently we are lacking the money or the support from the local community to do so. I understand people’s children may be all grown up and moved out, I understand it’s taxpayers dollars, but do you want the children of tomorrow to be smart intelligent people? Or nothing but mindless drones who are ill prepared to go out into the world and may only be good for labor? One way or another you’ll still have to deal with them for a time until you pass on from this mortal coil. So I choose the a fore!

7. I also feel I’d most likely AUDIT our Schools. Auditing would allow us to figure out just how much of the taxpayers money is going where it is meant to go and that the money is being spent wisely on what it SHOULD be spent upon (After School Programs, Buses, Regular School Programs, equipment, supplies, books, Staff Payroll, etc). This has been one of those off and on arguments about how “Schools already get so much money from the government” which again is “Taxpayer Dollars” and “why isn’t it working”? That’s a VERY good question and that is why I feel auditing would help us find the answer to that question.

8. While I understand teachers want smaller classes, to me, that’s just a given. Smaller classes help so that’s an auto, “sure thing”. If we have the funding and enough classes, smaller classes are better because it allows students to get the individual help they require and even possibly complete homework in class. Even if they do get to working on homework in class, if they get stuck anywhere, they can ask their teacher for help instead of panicking when at home on trying to figure it out. If possible, I might actually like to see if something like THIS might work….>

A class size experiment in the United States f...

A class size experiment in the United States found that attending small classes for 3 or more years in the early grades increased high school graduation of students from low income families. Finn, J.D.; Gerber, S.B.; Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2005). Small classes in the early grades, academic achievement, and graduating from high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 214–33. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9. Which is shorter and fewer classes per day. Students would study four to five different subjects/classes per day spending a longer time in their classes and again this would also allow them to get the help they desperately require. I’m not saying we should try to do both, but what I am saying is, it wouldn’t hurt to give this concept a try to see if it would.

10. I’d also like to see spending for certain programs like “Sports” get “evened out” and the excess left over shared with other important programs such as the Arts & Music for sure. I know that spending over the years for these programs have been cut as of late, but I am aware there are scholarships that can be given to Artistically Gifted and Musically Gifted students. I know that Art and Music were definitely two of my favorite programs because they were almost always positive experiences for me.

Student rides in car she built for art class

Image via Wikipedia

As a special note, I’d just like to say, not all the teachers I had failed me. I can think of a good handful of teachers I truly enjoyed & appreciated as educators when I was going to High School. They taught the subject matters I was required to know WELL and they had a PASSION for what they taught. This is what I loved, respected and appreciated about them the most aside from their, more often than not, positive dispositions and supportive natures. Going out to those special few, THANK YOU! For what you have done and hopefully will continue to do. I know sometimes it is NOT easy for you as truly GOOD educators. Thank you.

Overall, I’m filing this under “Rant” this was a little about the “Good, the bad, the Ugly” and what I would change if I could or what I’d like to SEE changed for the better. I still need to do some MUCH required research on some of this to better prepare myself for what I might TRY to do, so wish me luck in being heard. Thank you.

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