Student Well-Being Opinion

Be Patient: Change Happens Slowly

By Starr Sackstein — February 18, 2016 2 min read
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Patience is often an enemy.

Certainly understanding its necessity, I work hard to give the system the time it needs to acknowledge the essential shifts that MUST occur for all students to be successful in the 21st century.

But just because I’m ready (and maybe you are too), doesn’t mean everyone else is.

The American educational system has been this way for a long time and many are very comfortable with it as such, but that doesn’t mean we can’t challenge the structures in place and continue to push back as needed to make the necessary adjustments, especially if we put the needs of students first.

Report card time is probably the most frustrating for someone who is committed to giving up grades as it is a constant reminder of the expectations of everyone and how much needs changing. I can sit knee to knee with students for hours or weeks, teaching them to talk about their learning in a meaningful way but as soon as their learning is quantified on the report card, all I hear from them is “What did you get in...?” and it’s business as usual despite the exhaustive efforts to change their thinking.

But I’m not giving up and you shouldn’t either.

We are at a tipping point and although folks are coming around slowly, we must keep getting the word out; not just that change is important, but how we can make the change happen. The same way we work to shift the mindset with students, we must take extra care to begin the dialogue with our colleagues, administrators and parents in the community because for this change to happen, we all must be involved.

As a teacher and a parent, I even see my son who is in the 5th grade focusing too heavily on his grades. It started happening in the 3rd grade when state testing became the focus of all the learning in his classroom. It was tireless and he was stressed out. At the end of each day I’d ask him, “what did you learn today?” and he would answer, “I got 100 on my spelling test.”

I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “wait, that doesn’t answer the question that was being asked,” but to him it did. It took time for me to remind him that I didn’t care what he got on the test, what I cared about is what the test was about and what he learned from it.

Because I’m a teacher, I’m not the kind of parent who likes to step on the toes of his teachers, but I’m be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about the focus of how and what is learning and he is not even out of elementary school yet.

Although his system is a different one than mine, his experience demonstrates the inherent challenges we face as we try to do something differently.

Those of us working against the general stream understand all to well the pressures we face to help folks see things from a different perspective. We must continue to share our stories of success and challenges as well as what we learn from them, in this way we can show others that it is possible and maybe move the needle a little bit more.

Change is often a slow process but that doesn’t mean more folks aren’t coming on board. Many aren’t connected yet and it’s easy for some of us really connected people to forget.

What are you doing today to meet people where they are, and engage in a dialogue that may help folks consider a new way? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.