Whole Child

US Department of Education Expresses Gratitude to Educators…And I was One of them!

HE CALLED TO THANK ME?! The US Secretary of Education, Dr. John B. King called to thank me?! For my service?…I was in awe; I had to listen to the call myself to even know what I did to warrant such an honor. Our conversation begins about 3:30 minutes into the video.

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I mustered the words I could; I guess at the appropriate times. I was dumbfounded…awestruck even. I have stood in awe of US Secretary of Education Dr. John B. King ever since he took office. His background could have rendered different results; he gives credit to the teachers that invested in him and uses his testimony to motivate educators to provide not just better but the best for the students we serve. Sitting at the helm of the US Department of Education, he remained true to his beliefs in serving all children and supporting the teachers that serve them. Everyday he fights and champions beyond anything we can imagine. And yet…HE CALLED ME?!

Speechless. My team found me absolutely speechless.

Grateful. To know the team I work with appreciates the service I render.

Tear-filled. I “never” cry but I could not help it this time; I am touched.

Honored. In a calling this demanding, there is no greater feeling than knowing you are appreciated. I love and live to surprise the people I care about. This time my team got me instead. And a surprise it was indeed!

Validated. I am rendering a reasonable service.

All I Wanted To Do Was Teach

 

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ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS TEACH. However, often I find myself…

Baffled. I received praise as I traveled my 50-mile commute post the 8:00 PM hour because we received a call about a missing student. I was just informing. I did not need the praise. I needed to find the student. The student was found.

Humbled. In my absence, my mom informs my church that a number of students were affected and even displaced by Hurricane Matthew. My church family proceeds to fill whole rooms in my mother’s home with clothes and goods to donate to the families I serve.

Grateful. When I share with the marketing director of the local Zaxby’s of the challenges we face in a school in which 75% of students receive free and reduced lunch, she reaches out to her church and provide us with enough food to serve 75 families the Saturday immediately following Hurricane Matthew.

Awestruck. Three local churches reach out to our schools because they know our needs and offer assistance during the holiday season. We were able to provide Christmas gifts to over 32 families.

Relieved. When a parent expresses wanting to find work and establish a career; I can connect them to the local agency and they receive one-on-one assistance and guidance toward their goal…toward better for their family.

Hungry. The snacks purchased for personal sustenance during the day becomes manna for the hungry students I serve. The snack drawer; now a pantry.

Sympathetic. Preparing assignments to send to the local prison for an incarcerated or homebound students. Developing a means to translate the content feasibly in the absence of face-to-face instruction.

Empathetic. Stock piling clothes into a clothes closet to ensure students have uniforms and clothing to wear to school.

Infuriated. Adhering to policies that do not serve students well and ostracize certain populations.

Exhausted. Addressing social-emotional needs that stem from loss, lack of exposure and experiences, and poverty, be it absolute, generational, or relative. We extend our day to support students in extra-curricular activities or engage parents in meetings, conferences and discussions.

Excited. When donating items to a local church for Hurricane Matthew victims and volunteering during their giveaway, I connect with families that I did not know were displaced and in need. We are able to help them find the social service assistance needed to help with recovery.

Hopeful. Helping more students to gain exposure to a college-going culture, career pathway, and opportunity unknown as they prepare for graduation through local community college partnerships. Connecting with local mental health services to address some of the needs students have that may impede learning.

Triumphant. Doubling the number of students gaining access to college level courses in high school.

Data-driven. Using every tool to understand what the students I serve need and how the curriculum needs to be delivered to ensure they receive it.

Thoughtful. Trying to determine what needs to happen to create the best school culture for students to learn. Figuring out ways to reach parents and partner with community entities. Putting the puzzle together to determine which partners can help plug which holes for students and their families.

Pensive. Racing to the end of the year, to get end of grade/course test scores securing the evidence needed to show we helped students grow and gain proficiency.

ALL I EVER REALLY WANTED TO DO… WAS TEACH and somehow I find myself on this emotional roller coaster.

I enjoyed teaching so much; I wanted to help others love teaching and curriculum as much as I do. In July, I began serving in my dream job: Chief Academic Officer. I love where I am in my career. Although, there were many changes traveling the road from being a teacher; what has not changed are the daily peaks and dips of this roller coaster ride.

When I share my day with others I often hear the sympathetic, “I do not know how you do it.” Or as we vent as colleagues I hear, “That’s not my job.”

The issue is…if I was not doing all of these things…I would not be able to do my job.

I would not be able to educate.

All I wanted to do was teach. After years as an educator, with the ups and downs, sways and jerks of the roller coaster, I now understand it all as my “reasonable service.”

What necessary “ups, downs, sways and jerks” would you add to the roller coaster? How are you addressing them? Share your thoughts. Let’s keep this ride going…

Where Accountability Lies…

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I consider feedback to be a gift! When I am out in the community and others learn I am an educator, I have grown accustomed to receiving all of their suggestions as to how educators can improve schools. As much as I appreciate the interest and the willingness to share, there are some great gaps that need to be closed when society considers where the accountability for student learning lies.

When I go to the doctor, I respect and trust that they are trained and equipped to help me with my needs. I provide the doctor with my symptoms. The doctor then questions for greater detail and uses the tools at their disposal to make an assessment. As the findings are confirmed, a diagnosis is provided and medications are prescribed. With the information I provided to the doctor and the doctors expertise; we work together to “fix” what is ailing me.

When the doctor recognizes that I am sick and identifies my needs, expertise is put into practice in order to make me well. The doctor knows that I am holding them accountable for my well being. The same is true for what we do every day as educators. When we realize students have not learned; we put our expertise into practice to help students attain the knowledge they need. Often times, this results in practices beyond the school day and beyond school hours because there are many non-educational societal factors that impede student learning prior to students coming to school each day. That’s where accountability lies. Current accountability models do not consider all the factors of student learning.

Accountability models are premised on the notion that standardized numerical outcomes are indicative of the success and health of our students, schools and quality of instruction. This may be true; but the unproductive ways in which these measures are discussed and used within our society will not improve outcomes for students. In order to improve student outcomes; we as a society must improve student inputs such as health, quality of life, access, opportunity and the list goes on; in addition to the continuous improvement of schools and schooling. Educators are accountable for student learning; however with all of the factors that impact student abilities to learn, educators are not the only stakeholders sharing in the responsibility of optimizing learning opportunities for students.

Accountability models across the country allow stakeholders to place blame on each other instead of accepting responsibility for educating students within their respective roles. Policy places the responsibility on educators. Educators place blame on unrealistic policy expectations. Parents blame educators for not caring. Educators blame parents for not supporting the educational system. Employers blame educators for the lack of skilled workers. Communities blame parents and schools for the lack of vitality. The blame game goes on and on and students are lost in the shuffle.

The role of the educational system is to improve the communities it serves. As stakeholders, our roles are as follows:

  • Parents/families are the first teachers of our students. Students experience greater academic success in homes where they are engaged in academic discussion and expectations for academic achievement are set. What students’ value when they come to school is very much aligned to what they learn at home. The home has a responsibility to teach children to be engaged, ethical and productive members of society. “The family is the basic institution through which children learn who they are, where they fit into society, and what kinds of futures they are likely to experience…the home environment may influence the extent of persistence and achievement of an individual in any particular endeavor…” (Stewart, 2007, p. 20). There must be a desire for learning, education, self-improvement and social responsibility taught in the home that is supported through engagement in the educational system.
  • Schools are where the vision of a greater society meets future leaders tasked with carrying out the vision. School factors that affect student outcomes are organizational structures, climate, policies and procedures, academic organization and teachers (Heck, 2008, p. 229; Johnson, 2009). All students come to school with varying backgrounds and experiences. The educational institution is where differences are nurtured, learning needs are met, and students are educated in preparation for participation in the larger society. Through engagement in the educational process, every child should gain access to the opportunities that will equip them for success in life.
  • Communities are essential providers of supplemental resources. Education occurs as a result of student interaction with curriculums and relevant experiences. Often parents and schools are not equipped to provide optimal resources to teach the curriculum and provide necessary experiences. “Family SES [Socio-economic Status], which will largely determine the location of the child’s neighborhood and school, not only directly provides home resources but also indirectly provides “social capital,” that is, supportive relationships among structural forces and individuals (i.e., parents-school collaborations)” (Sirin, 2005, p. 420). School socio-economic status can influence such school factors as instructional arrangements, materials, teacher experience, teacher-student ratios and the quality of instruction (Sirin, 2005). Relationships with community entities, industries, employers, support students access to the content and the experiences that are needed for their success.
  • Policy Makers are accredited for having a larger scope regarding the condition of society and the necessities of its forward movement. If students are not educated, society will suffer. Everything that happens in our society; happens in our schools. “Historically, policymakers have made strides to impact students’ achievement through social reform. “Current policies… are holding the educational system accountable for student outcomes. Research indicates that there needs to be a married reform effort between the two: the social and educational aspects … to get the greatest impact for our students” (Garrett, 2012, p. 68). Practices and policies that make children whole and the future of society better are a result of collaboration amongst parents, schools, communities and policy makers.

Measuring the impact of education solely on standardized assessments implies that the business of educating children is black and white. It is not; there are many components that are required to educate the whole child. Children are not educated until they are whole! Rather than place the blame, we must realize that accountability lies with everyone who has a role in meeting students needs in order to ensure that they come to school prepared to learn and equipped to learn. Every stakeholder is accountable for making sure we educate our children whole.

What are your thoughts regarding where accountability lies?

References:

Garrett, N.C (2012). A study of the perceptions of school system personnel of the academic achievement gap and how their perceptions influence their educational practices (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/7913.

Heck, R. (2008). Teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Journal of Educational Administration, 47(2), 227-249.

Johnson, C. (2009, May). An examination of effective practice: Moving toward elimination of achievement gaps in science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20(3), 287-306.

Sirin, S. (2005, Fall). Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review of research. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 417-453.

Stewart, E. B. (2007, December/ 2008, January). Individual and school structural effects on African American high school students’ academic achievement. The High School Journal, 91(2), 16-34.

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