The Other Side| Educator Turning Parent…YIKES!

Oh, man! I had no idea how hard sitting in the other seat of education would be for me. Being a parent and an educator, may just do me in…

Even before joining the parent side, I have been baffled by the lack of transparency and accountability for school systems (this includes universities) in regards to informing educators, leaders, parents and so on about what is good for kids and what isn’t. The root cause of this is grey, convoluted.

Why do these inaccuracies prevail? Why do schools continue to promote misleading notions? It’s likely in result of one or more of the following:

  • Lack of life-long-learning? i.e. I have a masters in x, y, z, but finished my program x amount of years ago and have not researched to see if anything new has transpired in my field
  • Politics? what “sounds” good
  • Gut (heartfelt) decision making v. evidence based?
  • The “I” factor? It worked for me or so and so, therefore it must be
  • Trust Saying it’s so because someone we look up to say’s it’s so. This may be not all bad, but leaves a lot of room for error- lost in translation when you don’t own the learning, trusting the wrong folks, etc.

This conundrum has never been more apparent as it is now…

As I am looking at school options for my daughter, the ongoing struggle with educational practices continues, but now it’s personally relevant. In my search for where to enroll her, I found many schools who were great with certain focus areas. However it was very difficult to find a school that was strong in all areas: multiple contents, culture, affective learning, community partnership, child centered etc.

For the first time, the layers of who I am are truly intertwined. It is very hard to turn off my educator hat when listening to a school liaison, leader, or teacher share what’s best about their school or for my child (pictured).

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Here are two examples from my first Parent Night experience:

My daughter was in the Early Childhood program attached to a local school district. My initial meeting with her teacher started with propaganda sharing, a handout espousing the benefits of Montessori over Non-Montessori programs. This information was inaccurate, old school at best. It would be hard pressed to walk into any 21st Century school and see what was being described. Another example from this evening was when my daughter’s teacher shared, “We don’t teach the letter names here. We call them by their sounds.” Hmm, well that’s a *problem! I wanted to say back, what do you call the letter C?

*How do we learn to read?

A few more examples of misinformation I am currently seeing in schools:

  • Recommending Interventions for students that are ineffective, even detrimental (i.e. LLI)
  • Teachers not being trained to know what their data means. My friend’s daughter continually shows holes in her Screener assessments, but the school continually recommends intervention not aligned to the holes being elevated (i.e. the child is struggling with Phonemic Awareness and child is placed in Read Naturally, a fluency intervention)
  • Memorizing Times Tables in math with disregard to number sense
  • Non-evidence based curriculum being utilized 
  • Advertising teaching to different Learning Styles, they don’t exist 

Having these unsubstantiated practices still rampant in our schools that are at times detrimental, is absolutely maddening for me.

The trick will be respecting my child’s teacher, not over stepping. It’s not the teacher’s fault; typically they don’t know what they don’t know.

If my kids are doing okay—do I just stay out of it? On the other hand, do I have a moral obligation to at least softly question, coach from the sidelines? What happens if they come across this blog?

I fault poor leadership (lack of lifelong learners), universities, folks willing & allowed to publish “best practices” without any evidence to back it up.

We need to do better.

I need to figure out how to balance the educator hat versus being mom hat.

Side note🙂 My daughter no longer attends school referred to above. I am excited about where she’s headed this fall for kindergarten. It took a lot of school visits, it’s hard pressed to find a perfect school. However, there are many committed to doing the best with what they know. It’s a difficult era in education with a lot of attention being put on teacher practice…what I am speaking to here is not a problem directly on the teacher’s shoulders. It’s on school system’s shoulders. We need to do better, but with supports in place.

I choose to question, to dig deeper.

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Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know. Daniel J. Boorstin

It’s amazing how we can walk through our educational paths acquiring certificates, degrees, training and still have our minds blown by new learning or find ourselves frustrated because we have all this learning, experience and were never told “insert new learning here”. 

Lifelong learning is that–striving to learn “what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

Here are two major learning’s for me sadly post earning my Master’s degree:

  1. saying it’s “researched-based” is not enough
  2. telling me it’s a “best-practice” is not enough

The real question is how do you know? What (empirical) evidence is there that I should spend time learning and cultivating this strategy, skill, or resource?

One way I have pushed my learning is to question, to not take what’s being delivered in a class or training as gospel. I learned to go into settings prepared. Who’s teaching me? Are the materials being shared credible? What is the research behind the “research based”, “best practice” learning I will be partaking in. I learned to question.

The important thing is to not stop questioning. Albert Einstein

Here’s an example of an educational practice that duped me for a long time, learning styles. I spent many years using this language, taking the surveys etc. My day-to-day work is in public schools and my  professional learning and conversations with colleagues continues to utilize learning styles. Schools advertise themselves “we address all learning styles” as though that’s a selling point even though learning styles have not been proven to exist –so we are basically publicly declaring on websites, as presenters, educators we don’t know what is “research based”  but come learn from us. Sadly, it’s not common knowledge in the education world. Addressing all learning styles very likely appeals to many out there. It sounds good.

Being led to believe something was good for kids and learning it wasn’t or it had little impact on them drove me to wanting to learn more. I began my journey of truly embracing lifelong learning– a desire to dig deeper for further understanding. I needed to know what I was doing was making a difference. I get led astray at times, but I surround myself with folks who nudge me to question or rethink when I am unaware of what I don’t know. I am able to listen, read, search, reflect, and change.

In education we are bombarded with so many ideas and what’s best. We don’t have time to waste on practices that aren’t effective. We only have so much energy and our business is kids, not a bottom dollar– Kids.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mendela

I encourage you to dig deeper. To learn what research really says about how kids learn to x, y, and z. We need to be smart consumers as educators and stop believing that everything we are learning in all education settings is in fact “research based” or a “best practice”.

Lifelong learning is more than reading, more than going to classes, it’s the love of continuing to learn, question, and share with those around you. It’s taking your acquired knowledge and advocating for change when needed. This field has a lot of theory, passions, gut feelings, and politics that all take us in different directions. I don’t want to be duped. I choose to dig deep and question so I can stay focused on what matters. I am in this business for kids and I want to know what I am learning will impact their success.

I’m open to dialogue in the future. It’s likely as I share my learning I will run into some resistance or have light shed on what I thought I knew. I encourage it.

Learning Style links embedded above: one, two, and three

Why not?

I am often learning alongside adults both in person and via the internet. Sharing and learning with colleagues feeds my soul. So why not take my learning to a different platform? Blogging.

Quite sure I will struggle with how this tool will be used best for sometime, much like my journey with Twitter (though I’ve been on it for years). Twitter has recently become one of my go to learning tools for all things education. Today I browsed latest posts about CCSS, found ways to use SRSD in Math, also discovered additional evidence for why LLI is a terrible intervention to use with struggling readers, and much more!

What a wonderful way to start my day with a cup of coffee, flipping through and learning, all while snuggling with my (early rising) munchkin.

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S and I snuggled up this a.m.

Why not? use my winter break to discover a new learning tool.

Here goes nothing!