I have had a few parents ask me lately about the general failings of the educational system. After careful thought, I wrote this 6-page essay on my view of what is happening. Although I am a teacher, I am also a mom of four children, a former homeschooling mom, and a proud citizen of America. My hope is that we will fix what is broken.
Here is my excerpt:
Why the Educational System is Broken
On any given day a typical school opens its doors and runs business as usual. Students, teachers, staff, and parents fill up the campus to begin another day of learning. There are a myriad of pencils, paper, backpacks, lunch boxes, and water bottles that shuffle around to be used for this one goal: to educate the children. Yet, every day, people are asking the same question and wanting to know why their children are not succeeding in a place that is supposed to guarantee an educated, literate, and self-directed person by the end of 12th grade. Where did the link break to allow a child to fall through the cracks in the system? The answer to this question lies with one word: link. The educational system is comprised of several links that hold together to have a common goal: create a circle of strength to embrace every facet of the purpose and goal of education. When one link breaks, the other links are jeopardized and may fail.
The first link is the government. Education began a long time ago, and the government stepped in to organize and fund this new entity. In America, the government relies on the taxpayers to work and turn a portion of their money back to Uncle Sam. Then, Sam is supposed to organize and distribute the money to the states for the educational institutions. As with every organization, there are no perfect humans in charge. Therefore, the allocation of funds varies from state to state, district to district, and even school to school. Yet, when the allocated funding is based on attendance, district test scores, or other measures, the balance can be skewed. Those that control the purse strings control the wave of currency and how it flows to those who need to keep the wheel of education moving forward. When the purse strings are broken, twisted, or cut, the educational system suffers, but most importantly, the people who are in the educational system suffer.
The second link is the district or charter that operates each school under its care. The districts are responsible for hiring the administrators, teachers, and staff to oversee their most valuable asset: the students. One local district is directing and overseeing a student population of 34,000, and manages over 4,000 teachers across the city limits. There are a lot of working parts to running a district successfully, and then it takes even more working parts to channel that energy to the daily needs of each school. Where the link in the district can get broken is multifaceted: the range of issues from legal to personnel can create a myriad of “hoops” to jump through and resolve. Metaphorical hands are tied in some cases, and other issues have easy green lights. The inner workings at the district level can either hinder or propel the successes of each school.
The third link is the individual school that educates a portion of the local population of children. In this one glance, the school is just a building, a brick and mortar icon that is a second “home” for many of the students. Some schools are in desperate need of upgrades, remodels, and keeping on track with safety codes. Other schools look like shining beacons of hope, safety, and success. Yet, the individual school is dependent on the very people who walk its halls on a daily basis. The school itself is a place designated for one goal: to safely house and educate the children who attend there. Therefore, this means that school is more than just a building. It truly indicates or infers a sense of home away from home. Precious lives are trusting that the schools will provide, protect, and promote success. When this link fails, the trust is gone. The students, teachers, and staff suffer from the lack of safety, and the fear from the lack of resources prevents the goal of education.
The fourth link of this educational chain is the staff of each school. The top leaders, the Administration, have been placed in these positions due to their level of experience and education. A well-oiled educational machine will run from the top down. The administration is responsible for the daily organization, function, and duties of all the working parts at the local school. They are responsible for the safety of the campus, the hiring of teachers, the management of students, and the care of the grounds. A lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Administration team, and the link is broken when the support for Administration and by Administration is not there. Since the Administration is deemed the middle man between the district and the teachers, there is a lot of stress and reliance on them to keep a school functioning at an optimal level. Burnout is one term for those who have experienced a lack of support and too much stress. The link can be easily broken through burnout, and this link is vital to the success of each school and each student.
The fifth link in the educational chain are the teachers. Some people may think that the heart of education lies within the teacher. And yes, for the millions of teachers who show up everyday, their heart is evident in everything they do. The teacher is the one who stands before a class and pours the learning into the minds of the students. It is a picture of one of the most fundamental needs as humans: to be poured into, mentally, emotionally, and intellectually. The heart of education is inside a classroom, and this is where the goal of education takes place every day. Yet, for some classrooms, the teachers do not bring in their heart. Some teachers are burned out from the lack of support, lack of supplies, and lack of respect. Other teachers are there to collect a paycheck and be a warm body to oversee and manage a quiver full of children. And, then there are the many teachers who truly love their job. For them, it is more than a job, and more than a career. Teaching is the passion that burns within them, to reach the heart and minds of the children in their care. But, this precious link can be broken so easily when the teacher does not meet the expectations of the school, the parents, and the students. The statistics show that 42% of teachers will leave the post after three years of teaching. Therefore, the link is broken often at this point due to high turnover in positions, and the lack of consistency due to many factors listed above.
The sixth chain in the educational circle are the parents. Parents and guardians play a crucial role in the educational goals of their children, yet so many parents do not realize their importance. On a societal level parents are their child’s first teacher. They birthed these little humans and chose to raise them. The parents are responsible for nurturing and training them from infants to five years. Ask any educational psychology student in training, and they will tell you that the most important formative years are these first five years of a child’s life. What happens during these five years will set the
foundation for a child’s future in all aspects. Health, nutrition, safety, day to day learning at home, sleep, play, and love are all so important to the future of a child. Yet, many parents lack the experience, time, or intuition to provide even the basic needs of a child, and then they expect the schools to make up the difference when the child is placed in the school’s care. The parents are one of the most important links to a child’s education, bar none. While the schools play a huge role in education for cognitive and intellect, parents are also relying on the schools to fill the gaps for the social, emotional, and mental well being of the children. These gaps were never part of the plan when schools were established. These gaps were supposed to be filled at home. These gaps ARE supposed to be filled at home. When parents fail to uphold their duties at home, the students and the schools suffer in society.
The seventh link in the educational chain are the students. The children come to school in kindergarten either very excited or very scared. As a former kindergarten teacher the witnessing of tears and laughter are very common at this age. Young students naturally want to learn, to love, and to be loved. Period. Yet, the rigor and demands placed on the youngest students tend to burn them out faster than ever. The students are there to learn, but they are also expecting so much at their home away from home. They have needs to be met, and they bring in their baggage from home, unexpectedly, unknowingly, to have their gaps fulfilled. As the students progress from year to year, they still learn more and more. At one point, however, their love for learning starts to wane. The light in their eyes diminishes into a ember, barely holding on to the last spark that once blazed their heart and and their minds. The link begins to break when the love for learning fades away. The students literally and metaphorically check out, because they, too, are burned out, by the very system that is supposed to support and sustain them into adulthood.
The eighth and final link is society as a whole. The American society is so dependent on education, yet the irony is that the support is not wholeheartedly there. Yes, there are resources, funding, buildings, people, and space, but the lack of priority on education is what breaks this link. It is the lack of mental, emotional, and physical support to the very institutions and people within those walls that creates the largest gap. Education is an afterthought to many people in society, rather than a top priority. If an adult has successfully journeyed through the system, they tend to move on into adulthood and just expect that the system is still running smoothly. Yet, it is clearly evident that the system still needs support. Just as the Golden Gate Bridge needs those posts and suspensions to keep it upright and safe, the educational system needs the posts and suspensions from all facets of society to keep it upright, safe, and successful.
The eight links of the educational system are crucial for the future of humans. If a link breaks, the other seven links must scramble to strengthen and uphold it together. Yet, in many circumstances, one broken link will lead to another broken link, until the whole circle is broken. Then, the chain falls to the ground, broken in pieces, and the people wonder why the educational system has failed. As a nation, as a people, it is
imperative that every person takes a role in fixing and creating stronger links. The educational system only fails when the people fail. The mindset and heart of the people must prioritize education as its highest gift so that the gift will continue to give to each future generation.