How Can A Citizen Change Education? BE THERE!
I was talking with a friend last night about education and he said that many people want to know how they can get involved in education to help affect positive change. Strangely, I was at a loss for words; as a teacher I had never been asked how the community can get involved with schools to help them perform better, nor has anyone ever asked me how they can help me better teach my students to prepare them for the future. Needless to say, I was intrigued and decided to conduct a bit of an unofficial survey of those in education to see what they think. Here are the 5 most popular suggestions they came up with:
ENGAGE YOUR SCHOOL BOARDS
It seems to those in education that the school board is the “front line” in education as far as deciding the direction of a district. School boards decide on programming, curriculum, staffing and contracts with the teachers’ unions. Often, the unions will spend a lot of money to back a candidate that supports the union’s agenda; the union even goes as far as to recruit candidates and groom them for the position. Furthermore, school boards are often made up of one or two retired teachers that cannot even vote on a contract, but will use their voice to sway other members to vote in favor of the union. Average citizens do not know how to run for school boards and will shy away at the thought, thinking that it is a political position. The truth is school board candidates do not claim political parties and should ONLY run because they are interested in having a voice in education. So, we need to empower everyday citizens to run for our school boards.
Even if you cannot run for school board, show up at the meetings. There are a lot of major decisions that are being made at school board meetings, and if you are not there to question the integrity of the decisions, who will? Meetings are often announced in the local papers and even on the district’s website. You pay the taxes to keep the school district running and your opinion is not only appropriate, it is invaluable.
What is going on in education? What are the best practices taking place in other districts? How is money being spent in your district? What happens to ineffective teachers where you live? These are all great questions and ones that you will need to do some research on. Far too often we are not given this information and it is our job to search out the answers. When you attend a school board meeting, it is important to arm yourself with facts. It is one thing to complain about something that is happening in our schools, it is another to show up with solutions. Take the time to read about education reform and what is happening in successful schools around this state. How are they effectively educating kids? How can your district implement similar practices to make your schools successful, too? Trust me, we educators will take all the help we can get.
Parents need to ask questions. They need to ask their student what they are learning in class; find out if the curriculum is appropriate, rigorous and if the teacher is factual in their lessons. Parents can no longer assume that what is going on in the classroom is on the “up and up.” Talk with your children everyday about what they are learning and, if you feel that something is not right, ask the teacher! As a teacher, I have no issue with a parent asking me what is happening in my classroom and I welcome the conversation. I think it is too often that parents become intimidated by school staff and feel like they are not allowed to find out what is going on. This is FALSE! You have every right to know what is happening in your child’s school…heck, it is your responsibility! If you do not get the answers you are looking for, follow the chain of command: teacher, principal, superintendent, and finally, the school board. Demand excellence in your schools!
There are many citizens who do not have children in schools and think that what is happening does not really pertain to them. This is crazy thinking and could not be further from the truth! The children who fill our schools today will fill our state and federal buildings one day. They will become renters, homeowners and parents in the very towns that we live in. If we do not take a serious interest in what they are learning today, how can we ensure that they will become the law abiding, moral driven, responsible citizens of tomorrow? Even if you do not have children yourself, you must take an active role in education and our schools. You pay the taxes for teachers like me to educate the youth in your state; don’t you want to make sure I am doing my job? You should expect excellence from our schools and integrity from educators like me!
Since last week, I have been bombarded with questions concerning The Association of American Educators. Now that so many teachers in Wisconsin have left WEAC, they are curious about this non-union option. Here is the skinny straight from their website:
The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, non-union, professional educators’ organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to teacher representation and educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.
Even though I am still forced to belong to WEAC and the NEA, I joined the AAE this week because I believe so strongly in their mission. I am excited to be a part of a professional association that values teachers and does not use them as a funneling system for political donations. I am excited to learn how to be better at my craft and to know that I am a part of a group of professionals that truly are ABOUT THE CHILDREN!