As I walk through the halls of the various schools I have visited in the past year I am engulfed with the sights and sounds of children singing in music class, speaking Spanish in their immersion classes, having mock trials as part of US History lessons and seeing students helping peers who have learning challenges. And I smile – wide .
I also notice during my stroll through the halls of many schools a different “vibe”. That of students yelling at each other, often with vehement or disdain and teachers complaining of lack of resources and being asked to play the role of parent instead of teacher more times than not.
I am not smiling. Many times I feel unable to help and worse yet – hopeless.
I also see kids walking through the corridors void of expression because they are scared, feeling beyond tired, trying to keep a low profile from potential bullies or in need of respite from their home environment. So, I ask, how can we succeed at education when there is an underworld lurking in our schools which is far more complicated to handle then the lessons in the classroom? How can we expect children to be attentive and motivated to learn when their minds are elsewhere and their hearts are full of angst?
If our children come to school broken from life does that mean our schools also are broken?
Now I know that there are many, many wonderful things that happen in our learning institutions. I understand that there are many parents and community members who give much of their time and resources to help our children be the best students they can be in a nurturing and creative school environment. I also know that many students are struggling, parents are not able or willing to volunteer and that some of our communities are too unsafe to support neighborhood programs. Unemployment, substance abuse and lack of education are not a recipe for success. There are so many variables to take in to consideration.
Recently I was talking to a group of parents about this very subject. Many of them agreed that it is hard to teach children who are hungry and often scared about their current home or neighborhood situations. Some indicated that their own schools were failing their children. Not because they had difficult children or lived in areas of poverty, but, because the schools were often underfunded and on austerity budgets which left the tone of the building “stressed”. For a few of these parents the decision to home school came out of desperation for wanting a different kind of educational experience for their children. These parents felt that their neighborhood schools were broken.
So, let us take a few minutes to share some ideas with the hopes that we can collectively start a debate about how to help our kids, our teachers, our schools and our neighborhoods. Together we may be able to provide some “glue” and start fixing what is broken.