What’s Wrong with Education?
by Mary Beth Spann, Guest Author
As we begin a new school year, it’s impossible to escape voices that insist our efforts to educate our kids are failing.
Sometimes we’re even guilty of it ourselves. It’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining about the state of education in general and of pitting traditional schools against alternatives, such as charter schools, homeschooling settings and even unschooling arrangements.
But criticisms alone do nothing to make things better and the act of comparing often results in nothing more than a whole lot of useless finger pointing.
As a longtime teacher, parent, puppeteer and education author, I cherish the importance of play, choice and creativity at all levels of the educational process.
I am saddened that our test-crazed culture has begun rob time and space from even our youngest learners. It broke my heart to hear a kindergarten teacher who attended one of my recent puppet workshops lament, “They might as well just take the toys out of my kindergarten class; we don’t have time for play anyway!”
While it’s easy to focus on all this negative stuff, I think one of the biggest things “wrong” with education is not education itself, but our obsession with what’s supposedly not working. It grabs our attention at every turn. It moves our focus away from what really matters: our kids and everything we’re doing right for them.
I’ve decided I’m done with listening to what’s wrong with our traditional and
non-traditional school arrangements. I refuse to buy into all the negative press surrounding the teachers, parents and kids involved.
I’m even done complaining about those who insist on exploiting our kids for some political or fiscal agenda. (Others are fighting that battle and I predict the whole situation will eventually fall of its own weight.)
Of course a lot of changes must take place so that teachers especially can regain the breathing room they need (read: professional respect, trust and freedom) to experiment with what works best with each child and each group of children. And we all need to listen better to our kids and remember the importance that their interests play in the process of effective education.
But mere moaning and groaning is not going to result in the education reform many crave.
So what can one teacher or parent do today to make things better? Plenty!
I, for one, am going to begin by focusing on what’s right with education today.
I am going to look for what works wonderfully anytime intelligent, caring adults like you and beautiful, curious kids like yours engage in the joys of learning and growing together.
I am going to place my valuable time and attention on connecting with fabulous parenting, teaching and learning resources (like Really Good Stuff and others).
I’m going to look for creative ways parents and teachers can support one another and revel in our abilities to offer the kids we love a fun and playful path to meaningful learning.
And I am beginning right here, right now.
Is anyone with me on this?
About the Author
Mary Beth Spann is founder of LearningwithPuppets.com, an online resource site for teachers and parents of children ages 5-8 set to launch this fall.