But the Real Question Is, “Are You Ready To Be Helped?”

“I need help.”

As a teacher, that’s something you may hear every day from your students.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons why many young adults who graduate high school aspire to be teachers.  Their learning may have been significantly impacted by a teacher, and they want to be able to offer that same type of assistance to others.  Perhaps it’s why you entered the teaching profession.  It’s an altruistic calling.  Many teachers will agree that seeing the spark of learning take place when a student reaches the “aha” moment and “gets it” is what keeps them engaged with the educational process.

I would lay odds that no one gets into the field of education to create policy, enforce adherence, and mete out the consequences engendered when said policies are breached.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been quoted as saying, “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”  That can also be applied to students in the classroom.  Learning can only take place when a student is ready to learn.  There needs to be an element of hope inherent in the the student so that the learning experienced will be of consequence when the learning is put into action.  Such is why college graduates are excited by the possibilities that lie ahead of them, energized by commencement speakers who encourage them, and elated by the honors they may have achieved throughout their academic experience.

Then they’re “welcomed” to “the real world.”  The big fish in their schools no more, they become the minnows in the machine.  The meshing of the gears of management, politics, law, safety, and administration can sullen, and sometimes, shred, even the brightest and most enthusiastic students as they look at the career they enter and, after a few years, wonder, “Why did I ever get into this?”

The question returns: “I need help.”

Interestingly, the experiences they have, the relationships they form, and the talents (both realized and hidden) that they nurture will move them forward, and they’ll once again look to find mentors that will positively influence them as they did in the classroom.  Unfortunately, while there may be a few professors that students shy away from, there aren’t as many positive leader exemplars in the world today.  The news is full of examples of greed, corruption, power and favoritism.  Leaders that are humble are often criticized and mislabeled as “weak.”  Positive mentors, therefore, may need to be sought through other means, and, often, either outside their current field, or, perhaps, once again from a trusted teacher.

For instance, many were stunned when the National Education Association called on the Secretary of Education to resign in July of 2014.  Here was a person who was in charge of shaping the future of education in our nation.  Therefore, it could be assumed that he would at least have some training in pedagogy, as well as experience as a classroom instructor.  However, according to information available on the World Wide Web, Mr. Arne Duncan was born in 1964, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in 1987 with a degree in sociology, played professional basketball in Australia from 1988 to 1991, and was then appointed to lead the Ariel Education Initiative in Chicago in 1992.  When it closed in 1996, it reopened as a charter school, The Ariel Community Academy, which Mr. Duncan was involved with through 1998.  In 1999, Mr. Duncan was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for former Chicago Public Schools CEO, and then appointed CEO of Chicago Public Schools in 2001 until his appointment as Secretary of Education in 2009.

Perhaps the members of the NEA were upset that the leader of education in this country didn’t have a degree in education, or didn’t have public school teaching experience.  However, that doesn’t mean that insights can’t come from unexpected places.  For instance, where did the realization for STEM education begin?  The first STEM conference was held in 2012, and included panelists from higher education, sports, news media, and business.  As Brian Kelly, the editor of U.S. News and World Report commented in 2012 to the question, “What is STEM, and why does it matter,”

There’s a simple answer, and a complicated one. Simple: It’s about jobs. Complicated: It’s a key to the U.S. economy, representing the growing disconnect between the skills that employers need in an increasingly technological world and the talent—or lack thereof—that the education system produces. (Source: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/stem-education/2012/04/27/what-stem-is–and-why-we-care, Published 4/27/2012)

Perhaps you would argue that the education system does not produce talent, since publications abound which state talents are inborn, while honed and shaped through education and coaching; skills, on the other hand, are learned, then likewise honed and shaped.

Further, while grassroots efforts continue to evolve, moving from STEM to STEAM and further, in faith-based schools, to STREAM, note that at the first-ever national STEM conference (http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/stem-education/2012/04/27/us-news-announces-first-ever-national-stem-convention), none of the keynote speakers listed were K-12 educators.

Governments, on the other hand, continue to adhere to importance of standardized testing and a common core curriculum to evaluate achievement, effectively taking educational standards out of the hands of local administrations and school boards. It’s interesting to note, however, that many local school boards may also be comprised of community leaders, business professionals, and concerned citizens that also have no formal training in the field of education, and all their concerned about is transparency regarding taxation, or keeping children in school during the COVID-19 pandemic rather than at home.   Wait until the new school board members who run on this platform realize that students enrolled in cyberschool take public dollars away from the public school districts and redirect them to the cyberschool.  Further, perhaps the reason that parents enroll their children in the traditional in-classroom public school is that they can’t deal with their kids’ energies being locked up at home, and want to simply abdicate their responsibilities of caring for their children during the day.

Perhaps all these attempts to improve education are just a prelude to the realization of the need for a totally new paradigm for education, since the current system that’s in place was born of a need to create a literate electorate to prepare citizens for jobs in the industrialized society of the pre-technology era.  An illuminating resource can be found at http://neweducationparadigm.org/ which speaks to this possibility, and the help that a new paradigm can provide today’s students and educators.

Once again, if you agree that help is needed, the question must be asked: “Are you ready to be helped?”