Professional Development Opinion

Our System Needs a Facelift

By Starr Sackstein — September 15, 2014 2 min read
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It’s a noun and an experience, an annoying one.

Since I began teaching 13 years ago, I’ve undergone some incredible growth as an educator.

Fortunately, like attracts like and I’ve met others who continue to inspire and challenge my thinking. They make me believe that as a group we can actually make magic happen, make change happen.

Unfortunately, the system I teach within hasn’t changed very much at all. Sure initiatives have come and gone like make up washed off after a day’s use, but real, permanent change has yet to happen.

And that concerns me.

The system we currently function in was last updated at the turn of the 20th century, set up like a factory to ensure students were kept off the streets and ready for work when they graduated.

We can all agree that the times have changed since then and it may be time for a major overhaul in how we do things.

But people involved are comfortable and comfortable is dangerous. Why change if things are already this way and always have been? They aren’t that bad, right? This is how we learned and we turned out okay, right?

That’s not a good enough reason to maintain any status quo.

The major questions we need to be asking every day is why?

Why do we teach the way we do and who does it serve? Why do we insist on comfort over change? Why do we allow fear to supersede student needs? Why don't we push back, when we know the status quo isn't working now and may never have before either?

Isn’t it time for us to move on and make a system for our kids and the world they will be graduating into, a world where a highly skilled labor force is necessary?

There is urgency for change with the following system issues:

  • Students shouldn’t have to stay in the same classes as kids their own age. They should go where they are appropriately suited.
  • Schools shouldn’t use bells to signify passage of time.
  • Kids should be able to choose the classes they take.
  • There should be no grades as they are subjective and don’t communicate appropriately the learning that is or isn’t happening.
  • Technology must be an integral part in how learning happens, using whatever devices they are comfortable using.
  • Teachers, students, administration and parents need to work together as learners developing an atmosphere where taking risks is both encouraged and rewarded. Failure, just a step toward the next success.
  • Textbooks are antiquated. Learning texts should come from a multitude of places.
  • Homework and out of school learning needs to be rethought and reconsidered.

And that’s just a start. Education is ready for some serious change, they just don’t realize it yet. The kids are hungry for change. They want to use social media and work with their friends. They want to choose what they learn and how they learn it.

We need to listen. It’s time.

What will you do to help move education into the 21st century?

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.