Community//

An empty chair. An empty room. A quiet hallway void of students.

What do you consider to be the major issues in public education today?

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Empty Classroom Chairs
Empty Classroom Chairs

Eight years ago, I was nominated by my School Principal to be the Campus Teacher of the Year Representative for our District. This was my short essay that I wrote which I find so true today during our COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

Education Issues and Trends:
What do you consider to be the major issues in public education today? 

     This in its self is not my *** Moment, but what it represents.   Every school year in August, we come to our campus and decorate the classrooms in anticipation of the start of another school year.  Excitement builds as we look forward to what the school year will bring.  Which students will be returning?  What will the new students be like?  What memories will be created in the upcoming year?

     I don’t have just one *** Moment, but a consolidation of several.  Little bits of memories of students who have walked through our classrooms and hallways here in *** since I started here in March, 2006. 

      When I worked in the Courage Program as the Math/Science/Career Technology Education (CTE) Teacher, I met a student, who was a young mother, previous dropout, trying to stay clean and sober, and just graduate from high school.  I spoke with her about what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to do theater and enjoyed to act.   I went ahead and wrote to the Collin College (a local Community College) Theater Department Head, and explained my student’s information.  They had open tryouts.   I gave the information to the student.  She ended up getting a $ 1,000 college scholarship.  I also wrote a nomination for her to be our Campus’ Nomination for 2006, which she won.

     I had a night school student several weeks ago come to school with blacken eyes from getting in a fight.  He was put into another room by himself to “cool” off.  I happened to be grading papers in the back.  I heard him on his phone talking with his father about a situation.  I gave him his space.  Later he called me over, and asked me, “If I ever read the Bible?”, which I replied that I did.  He showed me two bibles in front of him, a small cross, and some old faded photographs.  He told me that “This is all I have.”.  He later shared that he was in a previous fight, got kicked out of his home by his Father.  His Father was driving him to school that night, and this student got angry, and got out of the car several miles from school and walked to school.  He did not have  a place to stay that night.  I tried to do a referral and got him in touch with another night school student who was his friend.  He eventually slept under a bridge later that night.  The next few days he stayed with his friend.  He eventually moved back in with his Father, got his car fixed/replaced, and is now concentrating on completing high school so he can join the Navy.

Sometimes as teachers, it is not the subject matter of what we are trying to teach.  At our school, it is sometimes just being there as a lending ear, and helping students through their trials and tribulations until they get back on their feet.

Next year when I start decorating classrooms, and look at the empty seats, he will be one of the students I will be thinking about.

*** I am not mentioning the school’s name for privacy issues.

Update: 2020-2021 is another concern for education as we change and shift the paradigm of what was “normal” in education to suddenly teach remotely to students. Some schools (like my current school) offer students the opportunity to attend school each day or to be a virtual student and log in each day/time for class. Some students can choose to be working independently as a distance learner and complete their assignments on their own.

A recent article explains the impact of COVID-19 on Education (http://www.oecd.org/education/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-education-insights-education-at-a-glance-2020.pdf ).

Students are feeling the impact according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_education.

The Brookings Institute (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/12/03/how-is-covid-19-affecting-student-learning/) had some initial findings in the Fall of 2020 compared to other school years
that;

“..the math achievement of students in 2020 was about 5 to 10 percentile points lower compared to same-grade students the prior year. “.

— “Student achievement was lower than the pre-COVID-19 performance by same-grade students in fall 2019, and students showed lower growth in math across grades 3 to 8 relative to peers in the previous, more typical year.  “.

How can we as a society help to fix this?

If it takes a village to raise a child, I think it takes more than a Country to help our children’s education and prepare them for our next generation of long time learners.

Distance Learning and Working is going to be the new norm. We are seeing companies realize that a brick and mortar constraint might not be feasible and companies can save money on rent and operating costs by having workers work from home or attend virtual meetings/conference calls.

We are seeing students go to college and log into their classes from their dorms and homes.

Time Management Skills. Students need to be taught and shown time management techniques to properly plan for their school work and/or attend their virtual classes. I used to put my weekly assignments and due dates on a classroom board but now I post my weekly assignments and due dates on our school’s educational platform for students/parents/teachers to access.

Isolation. Students are feeling isolated by working by themselves or being at a home without parents/siblings (if parents are working outside the home). Social Time at school is for those who attend in person but those at home are left out.

Time for breaks. Students need time for breaks outside of class. Staring at a screen for 45-50 mins and having only 5-10 mins to be prepared for another class is not much time for a break. Students at school have the opportunity to walk to classrooms, or take a brief walk outside to get fresh air. Students at home on ZOOM Calls need to have this too.

Support. We are all needing support to get through this global Covid-10 pandemic. This is not just our students trying to learn in this new environment, but the teachers and schools along with the parents and families.

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