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Nineteen years of education have enabled me to watch the pendulum swing back and forth a few times. We have gone from grouping to whole class to differentiation. Methods and techniques come and go, each time reintroduced with a new twist. So many things in education recycle themselves and each time educators are ignored as the experts. Teachers are starting to network and speak up and know it is time to wake up. That being said, we need to wake up as a nation and make three immediate changes to do what is best for our children.

1. Shut up and listen! Being an election year, Common Core has become a hot button again and is being thrown around as the root of all evil. Those in education can tell you what common core means. The good, the bad and the ugly. The Good: Having a national set of standards allows students who move from state to state the stability to connect content as they move. Each state has the ability to add their own curriculum, but having common core curriculum is sound practice. It provides a basis for students and teacher to network and learn. The Bad: Teachers are using the materials provided through districts, states and publishing companies. No system is perfect and learning how to teach best practices takes time and work. Hardly anything I learned in college twenty years ago applies to what I do today. Things change and teachers are given very little time to adapt to these changes. The standards are new and little was done to bridge the gaps that were there. The Ugly: High stakes summative assessments demand students test in a false environment under strict restrictions that go against real learning. Teachers know this is not what is best. But requirements and laws and connections to evaluations demand these tests are given. Common core has merit, but nothing is a perfect system; let’s listen to those in the classrooms and have a discussion on what needs to be changed. Educators are the experts, not the politicians that get the constant press about what is happening in schools. America needs to shut up and listen to the experts to make positive changes.

2. Just Say No! Our society has slowly moved towards an anything goes ideology to “help” children be themselves and develop positive self-esteem. This has backfired. We have given participation trophies and star stickers for accomplishing the smallest tasks. We have moved from helicopter parents who hover and protect to lawnmower parents who devour anything that might be perceived as in the path of a student. Persistence, failure and the true process of learning are no longer expected. Students have rights that go beyond rights and infringe upon the rights of others. Parents are so afraid their child might not like them or they might need therapy that we have become a society in which anything goes. Teachers know setting limits and rules for students provides a safe environment for all to succeed. When everywhere else you turn there are no set rules, anything can be explained away and no does not mean no it undermines all authority of those in schools and makes it impossible to set up a working learning environment. Failing is not a process but a scarlet letter and we do not allow for discussion and learning to take place. It is acceptable and necessary to have limits , to fail and tell children no.

3. Go Back to the Basics! We have become a society of impatient,spoiled citizens. The focus of each individual is on the individual. The society no longer has a common goal. Our forefathers wrote, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” and this means for all Americans. The road to create this constitution that represents and protects everyone is stained and flawed, but people moved together. Through change everyone was everyone and all could vote. Voices mattered. Now we are moving back in history with our choices being forced upon us by the media. Lives matter. Kids matter. Thinking of another person’s perspective, treating others the way you would treat your friends or family, basic respect and manners have become taboo. These basics need to be taught and used again. As a society we need to stop and think and act. Everyone has a story and a past. We have more in common than we do dividing us apart. Kids know this. They take care of each other and stand up for each other and we see this in classrooms every single day. Watch a group of preschool or kindergarten children play. They love and give and share and have fun! We take this away from with the examples they see in our society and the media and it’s not fair. Teachers know kids will work together and come together when given a common goal. We need to find a common ground and works towards this union as Americans.

It can start now. It is happening in classrooms across the nation and if we were given the support, the respect, and the materials that we need then these children have the answers. They are creative and caring. They listen to each other and work together. They thrive in the caring environments that are set up, even when they are told no. They want to talk about fairness and ways to productively work through problems and disagreements. They want to make a difference and so do those that make the decision every single day to go against the negativity and walk into that classroom and teach. Teachers stand up every day. We need to focus on a future for our children and make a change today.

What the future

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading...

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