- The Student-Teaching Model Is Outdated: Here's How We Can Do Better - September 15, 2021
- Visualize: How Seeing What's Coming Changed My Teaching - August 16, 2021
- 10 Lessons About Teaching from My Youngest Son - June 24, 2021
- Ending the Epithet “Try-Hard” Once and for All in Classrooms - June 18, 2021
- From STEM, Let's Pivot to the BRANCHES of the Humanities - May 25, 2021
- Would Education Collapse If Teachers Stopped Working for Free? - May 20, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part II - April 21, 2021
- 8 Tips So Your Substitute Plans Don't Suck - April 14, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part I - March 12, 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: Habit 3 - First Things First - February 26, 2021
Dry. Thirsty. Tired. Beaten-down. Hopeless. Stranded. Barren. Arid. Scorched. Desolate. Endless.
These words can describe a desert, but they can also describe some of our nation's resources for education.
Taxpayers / community members (their demonym of choice depends on how angry they are) will be the first to tell you that. Property taxes - the most common national way to pay for schools - are tough. For our elderly citizens, some people lose their homes over taxes. Tax increases are tough to stomach. They push school board members and state legislatures to uphold their right to minimal taxes. Unless their child is in school, the willingness to budge is minimal. The resources are dwindling or, in some cases, gone.
School districts are equally strapped. With the soaring costs of health care (a national issue), pensions (usually a state kicking the can down the road), specialized education, and the increased demands on staffing and infrastructure, the budgets keep climbing. School boards around the nation are put in the dilemma of fixing potholes or reducing class sizes. The resources are dwindling or, in some cases, gone.
States are equally strapped for cash. While the amount of spending has remained on a slow increase, the percentage of schools who receive state funding diminishes every year. States have their own issues to pay for: natural disasters, failing infrastructure, their increasing size of government. You got it - the resources are drying up.
But so are our teachers' patience and time. Educators who began their career 30 years ago have seen a complete time and expectation warp, as they're now expected to teach multiple versions of classes (teacher lingo: preps), more classes, more students, and more demanding students each and every year. Their paperwork - from Arne Duncan all the way down to their superintendent - increases with each initiative and panacea for education. That is, until next year. Coupled with stagnant wage increases and less time to know the students, teachers are cracking like a dry river bed.
Administrators are in the same boat. I look at them and wonder how they're able to lead a school or a district despite being constantly pinched between all these lost resources.
Parents have also been stretched. More than ever are not just both adults in the home are working, but both working multiple jobs. That has stretched them thin on time to help their children succeed with their homework and their responsibility, and, coupled with many of the frustration with an educational system that is looking more and more foreign to them as the years pass (teacher lingo: Common Core), the disconnect between front door and school door is growing at a deserting speed.
Lastly, and most importantly, are the students. They are the reason that all these aforementioned stakeholders are invested - both literally and figuratively - in education. But these students are suffering stress-related issues more frequently than we can even begin to understand. The increased demands of the stakeholders - who want to see increased test scores and a quality return on their investment - coupled with the students own personal ambitions that are often complicated by many reasons, mean that students are cracking under the pressure of trying to find an oasis.
So what's the solution to this? The easy thing would be to say more resources: money, time, devotion, among other facets to help quench the thirst of our educational desert. Most of all, though, is a set of realistic expectations for one another. We can't expect a bottomless allowance to spend money on education, unlimited teacher time on the job, and understanding and curing the burnout of educators, parents, and students across the nation. Until we find the shade and a place to quench that main resource, we'll be stuck in the sands.