I read somewhere that the purpose of education was never to generate people who trained for new jobs. The purpose of education was to yield more people who will have the potential to think for themselves and seek the truth. This purpose of education will ultimately lead people to a better life, which is not only good for the individuals but good for the masses—the vehicle to quality education is in the schools. We need our schools to be better for all children, not just some children. In many parts of our country, schools only benefit some children. Here is a model for improving all schools, so they benefit all children. Here are the five Rs to better schools:
Students of color deserve an education system where they can thrive and reach their fullest potential. Racism is a structure that impacts our everyday lives. Racism is also a structure that impacts education, and we know that many students of color across the country deal with racism in schools. The school, specifically the classroom, is also a place to begin dealing with and dismantling racism. Our schools are becoming a place of diverse students, especially regarding race. To strive for racial equity, we must acknowledge that students arriving in our classrooms are not the same. We can improve racial equity by beginning in the school. We need to re-examine the curricula. Racial equity can be elevated in what is taught in schools, and we can combat ideas of racism. We can elevate our students’ voices, especially those of color, whose voices are the most silent. We can also examine our discipline policy and ensure racial equity in handling discipline.
Resources that are Fair
The COVID-19 pandemic and the attempt to reopen highlighted that school resources are unfair. We all saw first-hand the difficulties schools had with getting help to open schools. If we go back a few months from when schools first closed, many could not provide any instruction for students. The reason was that they did not have the resources to make the switch. This includes resources for students or the resources for teachers to teach successfully at home. To have better schools, the school needs resources. Better schools have all the resources they need to be successful. Better schools have:
- Up-to-date and safe buildings
- Resources to hire and retain quality staff
- Resources to have a quality, well-rounded curriculum, and curriculum resources to support diverse learners
- Resources to offer technology labs and media centers for students
- Resources to have a robust offering for out school time through after-school clubs and sports.
Representation in the School
Better schools understand the importance of representation. A majority student of color student body should have a matching staff of color. In business, it is common sense. The workers should match the client. In schools, the teachers should match the students. Better schools create mirrors for students where they can see themselves in the teachers who stand in front of them. There should also be representation in thought and practice. There is power in the representation of thought and practice. It creates a space for educators to grow and develop. Better schools involve not only the education and advancement of the students but the education and advancement of the teachers. Representation even extends to the curriculum and the books that are offered. Are students learning from a curriculum that represents them and reading books where they are represented? These are essential components of better schools.
I always say Teach Plus was one of the best fellowships I participated in. Teach Plus is a policy fellowship that empowers excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues. My Teach Plus experience was an introduction to education policy, and I learned just how important education policy was to the overall landscape in education. Responsible policy is the policy that focuses on advancing education equity and quality opportunities for all students to reach their desired success. We need a more responsible policy plan that will allow schools to teach students in a manner that is effective and fair. If we want better schools, we need responsible educational policies that focus on supporting and empowering teachers and putting money into schools that need it most.
Respect for the Profession
The word respect has two definitions from the Merriam-Wester online dictionary that I believe we need to remember when discussing the education profession. The first definition is an act of giving particular attention: CONSIDERATION. While it may seem that the education profession receives much attention, I would argue that attention is smoke and mirrors. Education is a topic that frequently may come up in the news, and the school board election receives a lot of attention; however, I believe consideration is missing. Careful thought needs to be the focus. Respect comes from careful thought into how teachers are compensated. Careful thought needs to be considered by politicians regarding their policies that impact teachers and schools. The second definition is high or special regard: ESTEEM. We must see the profession as providing excellent value to our society. We need to see that the people working in the profession receive what they are worth. In its simplest form, better schools come from having a little respect for the education profession, especially when it comes to teaching.
By taking these five R’s and implementing them, we can be on the path to better schools. Better schools mean better education for students. If the students are the future, then the future begins to look a little brighter.