How Would I Improve Public Education?
Exhausted and frustrated, five years ago I quit public education. In the years that have followed, I’ve tried to think about ideas which might have improved the situations within which I worked. I mean for this to be a catalyst for conversation, and I’m happy to have these ideas refuted and/or debated. I realize I am a person offering suggestions for a field I have departed, but the students in my writing courses are often future teachers, and I am in continued professional conversation with those who work in the public schools
- All of the professional staff in the school should be in the classroom teaching students. It’s too bad that just about anyone who displays ambition in public education, anyone who wishes to get a substantial raise in pay, must leave the classroom. If all administrators (from assistant principals to superintendents) were required to teach, class sizes could be reduced and those who have become administrators because of their dislike for teaching or working with students might be driven from the field.
- Decision making power should be given to teachers with the most experience. How should money be spent? What meetings should be held for what purpose? What should the curriculum be? These are questions that teachers should be working together to answer. When I taught in Charlotte, all of my classes had over thirty students enrolled and in one class many of the students had previously failed the course. I had a thick grammar manual and literature anthology neither of which was a very effective tool for engaging students who were not very interested in reading and writing. How much did those textbooks cost? What else might I have done with the money? Too often those who had advanced degrees in something besides English Education were driving my curriculum.
- Teachers should be the highest paid employees in education. In many of the places I worked, it was too easy to get the job of teacher. Although some of the smartest and most admirable people I have ever met are teachers, I also worked with people who frequently missed school, wouldn’t bother the students if they didn’t bother them, and were in education because they couldn’t find anything better. There were times when the school year began and the school was still looking for a warm body with a degree to fill an empty position. Teachers are often not paid and treated with the respect accorded to other professions, and so those professions continue to draw the smartest and most dedicated people.
- School should be process and project oriented. Standardized tests murder students’ passion for learning. What rewarding job is like taking a multiple choice test? The more school requires students to sit quietly in their seats working their way through multiple choice tests, the worse off its students will be.
These are ideas I hope to develop, refine, or altogether change, and I’d appreciate your perspective.