Sunday, May 12, 2013

Do It For the Kids

Over the last few years I have heard teachers and stakeholders in the educational system state repeatedly state that despite criticism, despite opposing viewpoints, despite cutbacks, despite politics and despite evidence to the contrary, they are doing it for the kids. 

What are we in fact doing for them?  Are we updating our pedagogy?  Are we acknowledging that students no longer need the same educational experiences that we ourselves had?  Have we replaced out-of-date resources?  Have we ensured that we are nurturing 21st century learners - learners who use technology to create content and develop their critical thinking skills?

The BCTF and the provincial government have gone back and forth over the need to reinstate the specialist teaching positions lost in the past decade. I would argue that simply refilling those positions is not enough.  We need to look at what programs are working in what districts and direct resources to try and replicate those successes where there is need.  It is not enough to declare that students should bring their own device to school, when infrastructure is not consistently in place that can support it.  And we need tech facilitators (IML specialists) in schools.....educators who can support both teachers and students as the curriculum shifts to inquiry based learning and tech supported learning.

It concerns me that the decision makers are political creatures. They may have students' best interests at heart but they are also politically minded and ambitious. Teachers are the stake-holders who are most supported and most reviled in this process and part of the problem is that most of what we do is seen only by children. 

Private schools such as York House and St. George's get this. They support teachers with equipment, facilitators and infrastructure. This is what makes private schools so desirable to parents and such an enriched experience for their students. Teachers at these schools blog, tweet and email. They communicate. They make their programs transparent and are supported in this process. Parents are involved. Alumni fundraise and mentor their successors.  They are a learning community.

If we really are doing this for the kids, all the stakeholders in the education community need to do the same. Parents, politicians, teachers, alumni, district staff all need to take a good look at the system and shift it towards something that can work at least until the 23rd century.