Tracking ID UA-126977798-1
This week public/state and private schools in the Northern hemisphere opened for their next academic year. While most pupils come from the cities and neighboring suburbs to school, there are also innovative and unique schools in rural communities, in Indigenous nations and in what are considered the low income areas of some of the largest cities in the northern hemisphere. This week I write about schools in three different English speaking countries: England, the USA and Canada. I highlight challenges they have in common in all three countries public school systems and then I present an example of successful "outlier" schools: one state, one tribal and one privately run school. They all have their student's long term interests as a priority combined with acknowledgement as well as respect for traditions and cultures of their parents and elders whose children attend their schools. For many in the field of education their systems and methods are "controversial" but these are schools who have proved their success by every measure including passing the state or national exams/testing, seeing their teachers remain engaged, their students naturally modelling high standards in and outside of school, and maintaining the integrity of their mission and principles. Plus, they all have outstanding and visionary leadership-a key component to continued progress.
The connection in schools all over our planet is children-the students/pupils-and teachers. All other aspects will vary depending on the country, community, funding level and type of national government. Let's consider the teachers first.
Teacher training has been degraded in many countries over the past two decades, along with the status of this profession. I have witnessed as part of my work as a teacher trainer, education adviser, mentor and education programs assessor the forced ideologies disguised as the "new pedagogy" which results in the dulling/dumbing down of both teachers and students. A constant denigration of full spectrum thinking in favor of rigid group think, lowering standards in the name of "equality and inclusiveness" and enforced political straitjacketing of language and movement are resulting in inhibited innovation, limited avenues for any freedom of expression, as well as little possibility of peer constructive criticism and healthy competition. Those most suited for a teaching career, who care for children, love learning and designing unique lessons for their classes-are the ones who are most disheartened by much of the current teacher training practices and certainly by the systems they are compelled to teach under in the current public/state school curriculum and administrative hierarchies. See my previous article linked here: www.jopatti.com/blog/indoctrination-vs-education
"It's not the kids that burn us out, it's not the school per say, it's the requirements set forth by our state legislature, and the lack of support financially and professionally," Wenning, who has been an educator for 18 years, said. "Requirements set forth by legislatures include changes to curriculum, staff and parent meetings, and state-wide testing." insider.com/teachers-are-seeing-their-colleagues-leave-at-an-alarming-rate-2018-11
The 'political correctness' (correct only according to a far left/liberal interpretation of the word) required of teachers at work, in their community, after hours on their personal media platforms, often squashes the enthusiasm, joy and motivation for teachers to continue. Teaching is considered a calling as well as a profession. One that offers little financial reward and often throttles personal satisfaction and creativity. Moreover the little support given by administration, school boards and even parents for maintaining safety and decorum in the schools and in classrooms, causes many young teachers to give up on their aspirations for dedicating their lives to this work. Did you know 'Teaching' used to be considered a "noble profession"?!
More than 40% of trained teachers in middle and high school in the USA, the UK and Canada do not even last five years in the teaching profession anymore. "Up to 50 percent of those who become teachers in the US quit within five years—a figure that has been widely shared. That was always a rough estimate, and this new figure uses national longitudinal data and is more accurate, the report says. Of course, given the ballooning of the teaching force, there are more beginners in the teaching force than before. Still, it's a high attrition rate. Teachers leave the profession at a higher rate than many other professionals, including police officers." blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2018/10/today_teaching_force_richard_ingersoll.html
"In the UK the retention rates of early career teachers are also lower now than they were a few years ago. Around 87 per cent of teachers who enter teaching remained in the profession at the end of their first year, which is a figure that hasn’t changed since 2010, until this year when it decreased to 85 per cent. Worse still, the three-year retention rate has dropped from 80 per cent in 2011 to 73 per cent in 2017 and the five-year rate has dropped from 73 per cent in 2011 to 67 per cent in 2017. " www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/latest-teacher-retention-statistics-paint-a-bleak-picture-for-teacher-supply-in-england/
In a recent Canadian study and survey published in The Voice of Canadian Teachers they reported, "Virtually all respondents indicated that “Work-related stress“, “Heavy workload”, “High expectations lack of support" "increasing demands on teachers” and “Student behaviour and discipline issues” are important factors in their decision to leave the profession in spite of the rewards of working with children and potentially making a significant impact and difference in their lives.
Unfortunately there has been minimal focus on the problems in our education system. The response to the continuing attrition rate and challenge in recruiting, training and retaining "good teachers" has been to cover up evidence of failure instead of following the successful models of countries like Finland, Singapore and Israel which have improved their teacher to student ratios (smaller classes) subsidized teacher training and professional development, elevated the professional status and salaries of teachers as well as raised national standards. North America and the UK have responded by cutting corners in most areas of the state education sector and in obscuring their decision making criteria. The teachers and children suffer as a result and many parents feel they have no recourse. If they can afford to, they will seek out private schools or if financially possible, home school their children; but the majority will continue to be pushed through the substandard public school system because they feel they have no other option.
"The way the teacher shortage is often being managed by state governments isn’t by offering to pay more; it’s by lowering teaching standards. Unsurprisingly, no state government that I’m aware of has honestly described how they’re handling the problem. Some even blame the teachers’ union. It’s a con job and if your child is being deprived of a good education by it, you should demand better." exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/why-schools-cant-hire-enough-good-teachers/education
There are examples of parents, elders and communities demanding "better education" adhering to their own culture, language and standards. One group pictured signing as an independent district with control over curriculum, teachers and administrators hired, and resources allocated within their jurisdiction, is the KTC Education authority started over twenty years ago and finally recognized and funded by the tribes and the Canadian Federal government after many years of persistence, hard work and lobbying by the Cree Nation.
“KTCEA was established to ensure that Loon River, Woodland Cree, Lubicon, Whitefish Lake and Peerless Trout First Nations students receive an education responsive to their unique needs by strengthening Nehiyawewin (Cree) [language and culture] in our schools; developing resources and courses that reflect diverse Indigenous and community perspectives; focusing on student retention, attendance, literacy, numeracy and improved teacher retention; and improving student well-being through nutrition and athletic programs,” said Loon River First Nation Chief Ivan Sawan." www.dailyheraldtribune.com/news/local-news/investing-in-first-nations-schools-ktcea-signs-education-agreement-with-feds-2
Another example of a successful school with a visionary founder and leader
who hires and promotes engaged, excellent teachers, raises standards and expects consistent appropriate behavior from her students; is the Michaela School in the Wembly Park district of London, England. The co-founder and Headmistress (Principal) is Ms. Katherine Moana Birbalsingh. Her school, founded in 2014 in what is reported as a "poor, underprivileged section of North London", has been characterized as "one of the strictest state schools in the UK. The school teaches a traditional “knowledge rich” curriculum and follows stringent routines. Students move between classes in silence and are often made to chant poetry during assemblies." However, no one can argue with the brilliant results her students achieve on national exams. inews.co.uk/news/education/britain-strictest-school-michaela-gcse-results/
There is a waiting list for children wanting to enroll in the Michaela school and educators, administrators, politicians and celebrities come from all over the world to see the Michaela school in action while borrowing and/or exchanging ideas and strategies. Ms. Birbalsingh has become a beacon of light, knowledge, generousity and hope for teachers, principals, curriculum designers, parents and policy makers in a number of nations. She tells the story of her career, ideas about education 'reform' and the process of founding the Michaela Community school(s) in this interview-well worth watching. This was filmed before the official results of the Michaela school on UK national exams FYI: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXc46-NlOyw
Native American reservations still exist. In fact, they are still officially designated as "Prisoner of War (POW) Camp" by numbers in the USA. Pine Ridge reservation for those who know American history, is the location of the Wounded Knee Massacre and the home of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribal members, descendants of numerous great leaders and warriors. Pine Ridge is POW Camp #334. You can search online for more details of the history of forced internment and deliberate deprivation in a thinly disguised policy of actual genocide by previous American governments. It is a stain and a human rights violation not remedied by the civil rights actions on behalf of Black Americans, disabled Americans or women. Sadly a race containing a combination of cultures, languages and traditions of the "Red man" was once 100% of the population of North America, but is now down to only 2%. The states with the highest percentage of Indigenous tribal members is Alaska, followed by Oklahoma, New Mexico and then South Dakota. The problems on reservations are well documented and here is one short story of one family on Pine Ridge: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc94YDtSM1E
The Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota has tribal schools which were started privately during the time Barbara Means Adams (cousin to Russell Means), initiated the White Buffalo Calf Conference on Lakota education and supported efforts for traditionally oriented early childhood and kindergarten education on the reservation. One such school is the Lakota Waldorf school near three mile creek in Kyle.
The Waldorf school 'system' is more compatible with Lakota culture than US government schools. From it's inception in 1993 as just a kindergarten, it has grown to an elementary school. They intend to build up to a middle school soon. The Lakota Waldorf school exists only on grants and donations in kind, as well as in dollars (frog skins). There was a period of exchange between Europeans and Native Americans in the 1990s and a few Austrian, Swiss and Germans married Sioux tribal members living on the reservation with their children. As a result, some of them who knew the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner's work in education and Waldorf schools decided to consult with Lakota elders about creating a Waldorf school in the heart of the Pine Ridge reservation. They did so with only private funding/donations. This meant they could have flexibility for designing community specific curriculum and activities in the Lakota language. Many of their alumni volunteer to work at the school and credit their love of learning Lakota, routines, healthy habits and handcrafts from their time at the Lakota Waldorf school which for many of them is a place of refuge.
I had the privilege of volunteering for a few months at this school back in 1997, and I am happy to support a family foundation, the Denali Foundation's-specific gift which sends/donates art supplies to this school. The Lakota Waldorf school has their own website and a video about their school at this link: lakotawaldorfschool.org/2017-lakota-waldorf-school-video/
I am also writing about the Lakota Waldorf school this week to encourage you to donate whatever amount you can to their go fund me campaign to host their first Lakota Waldorf school pow wow. They are almost at their goal of only $2,000.00 Here is the link which has the details: www.gofundme.com/f/lakotawaldorfpowwow
With all the trillions, yes trillions of dollars in "education programs" in other countries our tax dollars are funneled to through USAID, the Department of State, the Department of Defense Civil Affairs and Provisional Reconstruction Teams, the Department of Agriculture projects as well as subcontractors and NGO programs even to countries which are openly advocating violence against the USA; it is a national disgrace and shame our own Native American schools and reservations still lack basic necessities, lack adequate infrastructure including heat, transport, supplies, and our American children lack enough food, shelter, medical care, adequate clothing, school supplies and opportunities for further education when foreigners are granted full scholarships and living allowances in the USA through "exchange programs", immigration subsidies and 'charity'.
Most of the 195 countries in the world have some form of public education for their young children, their next generation. We may take for granted that education is provided and that states, federal and even international organizations are committed to doing the best they can to raise the standards of achievement and the tools for children to learn, to be independent, to think on their own, to gain knowledge of a variety of subjects needed for life and to eventually teach others.
Like any important system whether in our own bodies, our families, our communities or our nations...we must be vigilant in maintaining and improving our education and educators. We need to hold those in positions of power over education policy, resources and personnel, accountable. We need to question any "new" ideologies which may be regressive in the results we see in our children, our grandchildren in our neighborhoods and representing our country. We need not accept slack teaching, slack attitudes, restrictions on our basic constitutional freedoms and disrespect as part of the "new normal". We need to back our schools only if our schools are producing the excellent results they are capable of no matter where they may be located. Others have done it, are doing it-there are no excuses anymore. We need to demand transparency from our school boards, legislators and politicians at the local, state and national level.
Closing today with a song from a popular film about a high school that was turned around from the lowest "performing school" with gang and discipline problems to a top performing school because of strong, adaptive, creative leadership and commitment. The film "Lean on Me" was based on a true story and the lead role was played by Morgan Freeman. The title song is sung during a school assembly and applauds the high standards which were presented as "cool" only one generation ...thirty years ago in 1989. Enjoy!
Until next Tuesday-drive carefully and be alert...schools are back in session,