I came back to Florida, US during this summer to face a roller coaster of emotions. We toured the Florida public schools which were all a huge change from the international school Dhahran Elementary Middle School in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia where I taught for 5 years. It was a shock.
I have looked at schools for my high schooler and a charter or private school where I can fulfill the requirements of implementing a meaningful technological unit. In comparison to the private American school where I had taught and my son had gone to, the Florida public schools were huge with traditional curriculums and systems.
What schools would look like if education was voluntary
Are the schools that I visited destined to be empty seats like the picture above with no student who is willing to go. It seems as if students only go to school because their parents make them go?
The important question
As we visited schools for my son and then later as I sat in the classroom of a middle school where I am co-planning and teaching… I am mentally pestered by a constant question….
What is more important?
Is it more important that no student is left behind no matter what kind of education (traditional vs. a quality education for the future) is given?
Is it more important that Everyone is given an equal, quality education that sparks students into forging their own paths for learning?
I ask this question…. when my son tells me that he has a good teacher but school is so boring because they do the same thing again and again every single day. Or my son tells me that he has a teacher who is teaching straight from the textbook with no other material to get students to think. Is this what school is supposed to be?
If you read any job advertisement one of the first requirements is “to be a critical thinker, able to think outside the box” but how? When our students never get to practice solving complex problems or coming up with innovative solutions. If they have no expertise or experience then how will they do it in real life, in their careers?
The privilege of a quality education
As I said, it was a shock to come back to America because maybe, I expected more…. I was born in a developing country where education is not a birth right. It belongs to the privileged few…
I was one of the privileged few as I attended an American Embassy school that very few could afford. I got a superior education in school as well as college, as I attended a liberal arts private school in the US.
I know the value of a strong educational base as it has shaped my life, my career path, my abilities as a mother and a teacher, now. It has given me an edge all my life. It gives me a more colorful, incisive and varied pattern of thought.
Is a quality education only for those who can afford it?
It is sobering to realize that for many students it is still our ability to pay for our education that affects the quality of education we get. Is that fair?
It’s not fair.
How will the revolution in the educational public system in the US occur? When will it happen? And, is the malaise all across the US or more prevalent in certain states?
It is less daunting when one thinks that maybe the revolution does not mean tearing down existing schools and starting from scratch. Definitely not! There are so many teachers who painstakingly invest their time and energy into planning lessons that challenge their students. And on the same wavelength there are so many teachers who are overworked and overwhelmed by requirements of the state that they are giving up. They need immediate attention whether it is a salary review, more time to plan, more guidance or more leverage in their planning.
What we need to start with….
It will be enough if we can plan collaboratively and focus less on covering more. We need to concentrate on teaching more deeply, meaningfully and allowing students time to construct their own meanings and solutions. As educators we are the agents of change that can provide a ‘quality education for all’ across the board. We need to take our duty seriously as the front line trainers of this new breed of students that have to take on unknown challenges of decreasing resources, climate change and changing technology.
As educators as soon as we become aware of our importance and vital role we can help provide an ‘equal quality education’ for all.