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Monday, July 10, 2017

Justice and Education

Teachers sometimes complain that school life is unjust and unfair for countless reasons. I know that schools are unjust in many ways--ways that negatively impact learning and children's lives. I know that we can do better, and as I think of this, I list the following areas begging for greater justice and betterment:
  • Clean, welcoming, playful, and inspiring learning environments for every child--too many schools are unwelcoming, outdated and too much like factories to promote optimal learning and teaching.
  • Access to learning and working in beautiful, natural lands. Students, particularly young students, need access to the beauty and inspiration that nature offers. Too often students learn about nature, but not in nature--we need to immerse children in nature as they learn.
  • Teacher-led schools. Too often well-educated, dedicated teachers are demeaned and oppressed in schools and led by managers who have little experience with students or teaching. Teachers need to lead their profession with the time and resources necessary to do a good job.
  • Research and development matter when it comes to teaching students well for today and into their future. Educators need time to read, research, analyze, reflect, discuss and debate related to the good work possible. Too many educators are exhausted because they are working all day with time-on-task with students and then working well into the night or early mornings to prepare for that good work. By leveling the hierarchy and distributing leadership in schools we will buy more time for educators to get the needed time on task for research, development, good teaching and service to students and families.
  • Fair rules, contracts, processes, routines and agreements for teaching/learning organizations. Educators need to have the ability to outline their work conditions and compensation in order to do their best work. The important conversations related to education organizations and efforts need to be inclusive, transparent discussions and effort that carefully regard research, experience, and student-centered positive teaching and learning. 
  • Adequate resources and funding for all schools. Too many schools do not have the resources or funding they need to adequately serve their students. Resources and funding has to be analyzed, supported, and forwarded to schools so that educators have what they need to do their jobs well. Money matters when it comes to good schools, and if we're cheap when it comes to serving our students, the outcomes will reflect that lack of support. 
  • Modern day structure and leadership models. Schools today should not look or act like schools 100 years ago. The world has changed significantly, and most schools have not kept up. By integrating new structures for leadership, teaching, and service to students and families, we will elevate what we can do with and for students in modern day learning communities that operate successfully in conjunction with multiple student/family-service/education organizations.
  • Act Against Injustice. We cannot stay silent in the face of injustice. We have to come together with colleagues, families and community members to speak up and out against injustice when it occurs. We need to question areas of school life that don't seem right or limit what we can do with and for our students, families and colleagues. Our local unions give us a collective voice which is very positive. There are other organizations and agencies that can empower our voices and efforts too--organizations such as Teach-to-Lead, National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (@nbpts), TeachPlus, Massachusetts Teachers Assocation, National Educational Association, content-specific groups such as NCTM, NCTE, and privately funded groups such as ECET2.
Relegating teaching and learning to old time structure, lack of resources and outdated myths and attitudes will limit what we can do with and for students. Our schools hold great potential for our nation's future and community wellbeing. We will be remiss if we don't heed this call and do all we can to empower the schools in our communities to serve students well.