Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Change? Darn Right We Need Some Change!

There are some things in life we can count on. The changing of the leaves. The changing of the seasons. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Most of these changes are welcomed and expected. Yet when it comes to education and the business of educating children one thing is for sure, change is absent. We, as a society, have become comfortable with the status quo. But there is a movement brewing.

On #edchat last night the topic was "Is a Shift needed in education? If so, who is responsible? Teachers? Parents? Administrators? If a Shift isn't needed, what is right with education that we don't need to change." Needless to say I did not encounter one person who said that things in education were going down the right road. I did encounter several who said they see goodness out there, but the over all state of education was headed down the path.

Here is what a few people had to say:
  • A shift in our culture is already happening. We need to adapt our education model and our own instructional practices to help our students acquire the critical thinking skills that they need compete globally and embrace life long learning. - A District Level Administrator
  • I think we need to shift what we think the traditional classroom roll should be. We need to tear down the walls and really develop global knowledge learners. Technology is helping, but we still have a ways to go. I think business will ultimately drive the change. Money always does. When business starts wanting more global citizens able to work with technology, education will catch up. -An Instructional Technologist
  • A shift is definitely needed but how to accomplish it is the big question. We have to enlist support from parents and educate school boards and administrators for the need to get the most of our students and prepare them for the real world. We must re-establish three tracks. College is not the answer for all students. Let's get back to Academic - Commercial and Vocational tracks. -An Educator
  • It takes a village to raise a child, but our villages are crumbling, our families are disconnecting, our schools are suffocating, and communities are suffering. Each part must do their best on a common goal, but we can't even agree on the goal. Education in America needs to be brought up to speed like any other entity we rely on, i.e. AIG or GM. Why don't we infuse the ed system with such drastic amounts of money and see where educators lead education? Progressive and opinionated educators are what's right with education today. -A Teacher
  • A shift is definitely needed. We can't keep teaching the way we have done for the last 50 years. It only really worked for the top half anyway. However, no shift will be successful unless everyone, teachers, administrators, parents, community, and students, bands together to make lasting changes occur. -A District Level Administrator
You can read more of what participants had to say here and read the archive here.

Here are some changes I would like to see and advice for stakeholders...

Change 1-Stop Allowing People Far Removed From The Classroom To Make Decisions That Impact The Classroom-Arne Duncan, Fat Cats In DC, And State Lawmakers: It seems ironic to me that you can sit in your comfy chairs and elegant offices and tell me and my colleagues that you know what is best for education and for the children of this country. Frankly, the only people I want, as a teacher and a parent, telling me anything about education are those that have experience. And I don't mean they went to school so they are experts. I mean they are directly involved in education. Why don't you do what we teach our kids to do. Ask for help! If you don't know, don't go in front of some camera somewhere and claim to know. Admit you don't know. Then call me or anyone of my colleagues up to DC or to the state legislature and we will do what we do best, educate you. Tell you what we think is needed. After all, we are with the kids everyday.

Change 2- Change Starts from the Top Down-State Administrators, School Boards, District Officials And Principals: It is all to easy to get into a position of power and be influenced by the outside. For those of you charged with overseeing education at the local and state level, its really time for some personal reflection. (I honestly wonder how some can look at themselves in the mirror each morning.) It is time to sit down and truly look at the direction education is taking, and perhaps it's time to stand up and tell those "policymakers" we aren't going to take it any more. Yep, you were right, I am going to mention testing. Testing isn't bad. (WHAT! Did he just say that??) Yes, testing is not bad. Most educators agree that some level of testing is needed. However, the problem is that you place too much emphasis on the testing. (Because the Fat Cats in DC say its important.) We need your support to Shift the emphasis from testing to authentic assessments. Students want to produce, they want to make something that demonstrates their learning. I was talking to an Administrator yesterday who was so excited to hear about a 3rd grade class that was embarking on a year-long project to create their own math textbook. There was integration at all levels including math, language arts, science, history and technology. And yet I said we still are going to test these kids. That project is exactly what is needed. Demonstration of knowledge rather than testing the ability of kids to color little circles. So, you, as Education Leaders need to wake up! Demand change from policy makers. But also demand change of your teachers and provide an environment for that change.

Change 3- Change Starts From The Bottom Up- Teachers: I bet you thought you were off the hook with Change 2. To be honest, I hope the real change starts with you. You are in the trenches. You are with the kids day in and day out and see what changes are need. So make them! If you can do something simple to make education better do it. If you can't, make some noise to those that do. Talk to administrators. Go to School Board meetings. Call your legislators. We need to get over this fear that if we raise a fuss we will be fired. There is nothing wrong with wanting what is best for your kids. Its time we all take a stand and say we are going down the wrong road and its time to turn this bus around. Otherwise we will be so far down the road, we won't be able to turn back. All of this is only going to work if 2 things happen. Administrators have to foster an environment of change. (Don't worry, I talked to them about that already. But the question is, do they get it?) More importantly, we have to get away from what is easy in education. It is easy to do the same thing day in and day out, over and over, boring, boring, boring. We have to be dynamic. We have to provide authentic learning experiences for our kids and that starts right there, in your classroom. Be open to and wiling to change.

Change 4- Hey Society, We Need You! Parents and Members of the Community: I don't mean more parental and community involvement, although I do. Yes, parents should go to school more often and get to know the teachers and the culture of the school. The community should take a more active role in the school by offering support whenever it is needed, either by volunteering or service projects. The Change that Society needs to make is to turn up the volume. We can complain and complain and complain. But until we unite and go to the people and places we are complaining about, we can't make things happen. So, go out, start a movement, talk to officials, write letters, make phone calls, and vote with your feet. Take a stand against the status quo. Remember, these kids will be taking care of you one day. Wouldn't you want what is best for them?

So I guess that is my Change Manifesto, for what its worth. These are just my ideas for Change. What are yours? How, if you were in charge, would you change education? Or would you just leave things the same? I welcome your comments.

Photo from Google CC Search. View the original here.


  1. I think we are on the same page in our thoughts about last night's conversation, but I think you may have said it a little bit better than me.



  2. Thanks for this "manifesto," very useful to see others' thoughts on change in schools when so many are undergoing it!