Education reform has been at the forefront of the public consciousness in recent years. Debates rage about issues such as school vouchers, charter schools, and teachers unions. Standardized testing has become dominant and taken priority in public schools over critical thinking and creativity. In all this debate, however, teachers’ voices seem strangely silent. As a former high school English teacher, I have been troubled by the attacks on public school educators and the unions which are there to protect them. As a parent, I understand the needs and priorities on both sides of the desk. My reflections have led me to create a dream of what it would look like to teach in a perfect world.
In a perfect world, students would come to school on time every day, well rested and well fed, with homework complete and materials in hand. In too many communities, poverty, violence, and overwhelmed parents make such simple preparation a challenge for many children.
In a perfect world, the school would be well-lit and comfortable – warm in the winter and cool in the hotter months. There would be enough books, desks, and other materials for the students. The teachers would not be forced to purchase extra supplies out of their own pockets. Sadly, in many public schools, these basic resources are lacking.
In a perfect world, the teacher would be respected and listened to. When I was a child, the teacher was always right. While I am not advocating blind obedience, I do think it would behoove parents to encourage their children to approach teachers as their mentors and leaders, not as their servants.
In a perfect world, there would be early childhood education for every child so that all children could enter elementary school with the basic skills they needed to succeed. Preschool is still largely a privilege of the middle and upper classes despite the fact that research supports early intervention to help at risk children.
In a perfect world, teachers would have small classes so that they could individualize instruction for children of varying needs, abilities and interests. A classroom would become a small workshop that would bring out the best in each child.
In a perfect world, parents and teachers would be partners, not adversaries, in the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of children. Teachers would communicate regularly with parents about a child’s progress, and parents would respectfully bring concerns about their children to the attention of teachers.
In a perfect world, schools would be a haven of safety, a cheerful edifice, a bastion of creativity, and an incubator for the minds of the next generation.
It sounds like a tall order, but a teacher (and a mom) can dream, can’t she?