8 Ways We Can Improve Schools Today For A Better Tomorrow
Right now, most school districts are trying to develop an effective plan for their returning students in the fall. Preparing for the unknown in school is no easy feat to undertake.
As a mom and teacher quietly watching from the sidelines, education has been an essential part of my life.
Education has an impact on everything we see, do, and believe in our world. From the basics of reading and writing to entrepreneurship and the economy, school is more than a home for academics.
In traditional schools (when we’re not in a pandemic), students typically attend a regular school day according to age, grade-level, test score outcomes, and unique learning needs. Academically, a typical pattern of learning content, memorizing it, and taking standardized tests, for the most part, is still the way we run schools today.
Following this traditional way of teaching is no fault of educators. Many factors impact a child’s education, from state and federal requirements to school boards and funding. Educators unfortunately, do not have a significant voice at this table.
We also have four generations of educators in the classroom today—those who grew up without a computer, and those who held the world in their pocket. The differences in each generation is so great, it can be difficult to get everyone on board with massive changes. Taking small steps in changing curriculum outcomes is always a good start.
Making Small Changes Can Lead To Large Results
In effective schools, especially at the high school level, students have the opportunity to build long lasting relationships among their peers and educators. They learn and grow together. They can discover their passions, and take classes that suit their interests. They have a chance to grow, boost their talents, focus on career choices, shadow industries, have access to career guides and mentors, problem-solve, learn to question, debate, and discuss critical topics. They also learn how to work together and independently—while developing essential social and emotional skills.
Finally, an effective school sees each student as a whole child, and emphasizes positive developmental growth without the worry of constant grades and testing.
All of these experiences listed above help young adults become engaged and active citizens, and contributes to the world in meaningful ways.
Learning is a life-long journey that should never end.
Education has a tremendous impact on the economy. According to Investopedia, “A country’s economy becomes more productive as the proportion of educated workers increases since educated workers can more efficiently carry out tasks that require literacy and critical thinking.
In this sense, education is an investment in human capital, similar to an investment in better equipment.”
However, we must ask, “What type of education do our students need today for a strong economic future?”
Education In 2020
It is now the second half of 2020, and although we don’t have to change everything about education, we have a unique opportunity to look outside of the traditional school walls, and bring in some new ideas that can change the future for the better.
Mental Health First
If we took this time right now, here are a few suggestions on how we could potentially make school a better fit for the times ahead.
Social and Emotional—Before anything, we must put Maslow’s Theory in practice before Bloom’s Taxonomy when students come back to school.
Institutions should provide social and emotional support immediately to ensure all teachers, staff, and school administrators are getting the help they need during such a stressful time—and this support should always continue regardless of the situation.
Before the pandemic, depression and suicide rates were already exploding. When students return, they are going to need more emotional and social support than ever. Nobody will know what our kids went through during this time of absence. Schools must acknowledge, understand, and support students to their best potential.
Planning for the Future in Education: How We Can Improve Academic and Better Career Outcomes Now
Create Work and Business Relationships—Create high school and local business partnerships programs. Include input from high school juniors and seniors and have them assist in the design of a program. Listen to their voices and passions. Provide students with opportunities to shadow different industries, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs. Put students in the driver’s seat and work with them as a listener, learner, and guide. Mentor students and show them how to become mentors to underclassmen.
Exemplify Entrepreneurship—We are facing unusual days ahead, and the future is unknown. Teach kids how to think for themselves and show them it’s alright to ask questions. Innovate with them, and help them to change the world through their ideas. Most students don’t believe in themselves because society has been telling them what to do, how to behave, and what’s right or wrong. Without the ability to think and question for themselves, students cannot live up to their full potential. Engage them in their creative side, and show them it’s okay to fail, get up, and build again. They may look at you oddly at first, but the future wins can be immeasurable.
Encourage Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills—Teachers can create lessons that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills with almost any given content area or topic. Challenge students to rise above the bar because you know they can do it.
Understand Students’ Personalities—Introvert, ambivert, and extroverted personalities all have distinctive characteristics, and different areas of comfort when it comes to attending school.
When I went through all of my years of teacher training, I didn’t learn about students’ personalities until my last class during my M.Ed. I didn’t realize how every educator had a significant impact on a student’s learning experience when they didn’t understand the differences among personalities. Teachers must know their students’ characteristics, unique learning needs, and plan accordingly to fit their learning styles best.
Focus on Careers—For older students, teach them how to focus on careers with their hearts and their heads. This type of teaching means helping students make smart decisions when it comes to college, careers, and future planning. Passion is critical, but we want our students to land a job in a field where we expect growth to occur.
The College Narrative—Our society has changed rapidly, but the college narrative has stayed the same for many years. It is important to let students know they have many choices. College is not the best fit for everyone and is not the only path—and that’s okay. Also, going to college today does not guarantee a great job right after graduation. Learning is a never-ending journey that doesn’t stop. College can be critical especially for certain trained skills and potential future earnings, but it is not the single journey to success today.
The college story should match the world we live in today—one filled with options, different ways to learn, and work-study programs that can benefit students and leave them without debt. Our students need to start above the ground—they should not come out of college at such a young age with piles of debt, stress, and worry.
Learn with Students—When you learn with your students, you can connect with them. You are showing vulnerability, and that can help raise a child’s self-esteem. Grow with your students, listen to their world—hear their stories.
What else would you add to this list? Please note, this article was published on my Forbes’ column with permission.
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