The New Look of Education: Moving from the 19th to 21st Centuries in 5 Months.

Let’s face it, the Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed what education will look like. You know what? We should not be surprised that we were not prepared for it. We knew it had to change, however the powers who control the purse ignored it.

Since I became a teacher there has been discussion, research, and writing about changing the face of education. Cooperative learning, peer tutoring, incorporating technology into the curriculum were all being discussed and proposed. We had been hearing how we had to stop using the 19th Century Factory Model of education and bring it to the digital age, one where today’s kids can take their mastery of simple, and sometimes not so simple, technology and easily use it to enhance their educations. Yet, then it was all talk. Now it’s reality.

The 19th Century Factory Model Education has been the working model for nearly all P-12 education systems in the US. Students go to school at early in the morning, go to school for 7.5-8 hours, come home and do homework. Not much different than their parents who worked in the manufacturing industry that grew out of the Post Civil War era. Made it easy for parents to work and provided an educated workforce for the low skilled, high paying (post unions) jobs they would take over from their parents.

While it has been incredibly frightening and frustrating to move into the new digital learning environment, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Teachers can move from becoming didactic educators to learning facilitators, or as Richard DuFour called them Learning Leaders. We just need to teach our educators how to be those digital learning leaders, use the same platform and provide the support parents and students need to be successful in this new environment, it can be done, it just takes the will to do it.

I’m in, who is with me?

Coronavirus Exposed Education’s Neglect

Since 1994, school districts across the nation were wiring their buildings in preparation for integrating technology in the classrooms. You would think, having started that early, that we would have been technologically ready 26 years later. Nope! With some exceptions, the federal government and state legislatures turned off the funding to build up technology resources for both students and educators. Instead of investing in technological infrastructure and anytime access to it by students and educators, they diverted those monies to things like charter schools or voucher programs. Many of which were a waste of money when you compare the quality of education students received.

Where has this left us? Right where we are at right now. Reliant on 21st Century technology and resources with a mid-20th Century mentality. If you include the fact that Conservative Republicans have served as the majority of the New Hanover County School Board, their fiscal policies focused more on saving the taxpayers money instead of investing in the technology and infrastructure needed right now to implement a virtual learning environment that is not only productive, but as close to classroom learning without being in the classroom.

I am an active educator with a  long history of being on the forefront of technology in education. Being a leader in the use of technology in the classroom has led to my being selected to teach at the Onslow County Schools Virtual School for the upcoming year.  Both of these have put me in the unique position  as a board member to lead the discussion on technology in New Hanover County Schools. A discussion that is long overdue. As the parents of a student or taxpayer in New Hanover County, you are, by now,    experiencing the need for such a brutally frank discussion.

Our children deserve better, I plan to lead the discussion to make sure they get it!

 

Patience Needed: Going Back to School in the Midst of Covid-19

Friends, I know many are anxious with the start of school just around the corner. You may not trust the system but trust your children’s teachers. Like you, they are anxious too. Like you, they want to see every one of students in front of them every day. Like you, they want this whole pandemic thing over. Please keep that in mind and be patient as they adjust to the new normal, which I hope is just temporary. Many districts have not developed a plan to train them and/or are providing substandard resources and platforms to conduct virtual instruction on.

When we go to the polls in November, please don’t focus just on the top names on the ballot. There are names of Board of Education candidates that are down the ballot. Some of those candidates will continue status quo, regardless of what they say. A status quo that had no foresight or understanding of 21st Century learning. Others, like Stephanie Walker, Hugh McMannus and myself are keenly aware of what needs to be done to correct the mistakes, negligence, and abuses that have been occurring over the last 30 or more years.

Be patient at the start of school and remember those whose lack of vision put us in the predicament. Vote Chris Meek for Board of Education.

Getting Our Children Where They Need To Be: School!

These are unprecedented times. There is no room for political positioning. As an educator, I need to be in front of my students. From what my students have told me, they miss and need to be in class. I am sure there are parents who are welcoming the day that their children will return to school.

Covid-19 has not only changed our world in ways we could never have imagined, it has revolutionized how instruction is delivered to our students. There are many who thrive with the distance learning, however many more need that face to face interaction with their teachers and their peers. Schools not only provide academic learning, they also provide opportunities for students to learn how to interact with adults and each other in a socially acceptable manner. Students learn to collaborate face to face with their peers to solve problems.

While the rest of the nation is worried about how to get the economy back on track, we need to have a more dire conversation. How are we going to get our children back into school in order to learn how to be active participants in those, oh so vital, economies. Let’s figure that out.

Covid-19 and Access to The Head Start Program

Head Start is a federally funded program designed to help at-risk students at the pre-K level. 3 and 4 year old children who fit the enrollment criteria are given the opportunity to get a leg up before entering kindergarten. This is a great program that accomplishes tremendous things with the students who are enrolled in it.

The onset of Covid-19 in New Hanover County has halted traditional school instruction and direct access to Head Start.  NHCS Educators have met the challenge to engage their students, even though these unprecedented circumstances could not have been predicted at this level.

Application to the Head Start Program have moved from a paper application to an online application. In the April 14, 2020 Board of Education Meeting, it was announced that there was a move from paper to online. However, there was no mention as to how those families without internet access can log in to apply. Is there a more equitable way for the families who need access to this vital and very successful program to gain paper applications if they cannot access the online application?

If the Board of Education can establish breakfast and lunch distribution locations for students who are enrolled in the free and reduced meals program, the very same demographic who needs Head Start, why can they not also set up a station at those pick up points for Head Start Applications.

For too long NHCS has been a reactive school system. It is time for New Hanover County Schools to become proactive. This is why I am asking for your support. I will try to anticipate potential pitfalls and offer proactive measures to avoid those pitfalls.

Protecting Those Who Protect Our Children

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a Facebook posting about the corruption of the entire New Hanover County School System. I made mention that there were over 1500 employees who are good, hard working people who do their jobs and should not be included. An angry parent retorted that there are over 1500 people who knew something but said nothing. I was offended as an educator, however, I could understand this person’s anger. I pondered this.

Last night, I addressed this at the NHCS Board of Education meeting. Most people outside of the school system do not know about or understand the culture of fear and intimidation that exists within the system. People fear or their jobs and/or their family if they say anything. Fear is a very strong motivator to keeping silent. Let’s eliminate that fear.

I urged the board to create a whistle-blower policy with teeth. Protect any employee from retaliation who witnesses and reports a violation of policy. Punish any supervisor who takes any sort of retaliatory action against that employee. The protection and punishment would have to be worked out, but this would the first step freeing from fear, those who see something, from  retaliation when making a report.

What are your thoughts? I’d like to know.

Reaching out to the North Carolina General Assembly

Superior Court Judge David Lee has signed an order to state lawmakers essentially forcing them to provide the necessary funding for public schools based on the Leandro decision of 1997. As a parent, educator and potential member of the New Hanover County Board of Education, I implore our legislators to get past the partisan divide and provide our public schools with the funding they need to serve ALL children.  Not only are you  constitutionally mandated to provide that funding , now a court has ruled that you must.  DO IT!

It’s not about the R or the D, it’s about the E! Education!

Wiping the Slate Clean!

The top three are gone. The three who allowed this horrible mess that has harmed so many students and their families. While the slate isn’t completely clean, it’s soaking in the suds, so to speak. To clean it, we need a new administration that is led by a new board of education controlled by the party that was in the minority the cover-ups and protecting the top three began. We need to elect candidates who have a solid understanding of New Hanover County Schools and its history. A board who has no direct connection to the previous administration, like some who are running. A board that will take the slate for the suds, scrub it down, and place it proudly back on the mantle where it belongs, shining for all to see.

21st Century Students: Technology

The 21st Century requires a labor force that is fluent in the use of technology. Therefore, it is imperative we introduce our students to the value of using technology as a tool for learning. This is one reason for the development of STEM. Not only can it be fun, it will provide skills that will long outlast the K-12 Experience.

I wish it were that simple. An education system should have a firm understanding of the needs of the 21st Century workplace before developing and implementing a technology program. In the Dec 31, 2019 Port City Daily article below it looks as if the county is doing just that. However, there is one glaring issue.

Most businesses and educational institutions run their technology systems on the Microsoft Windows platform and not the Apple OS. While good for some of the more creative and artistic careers and industries, it is not practical to attempt to implement a second platform for students and later members of the workforce to learn.

If we are going to use taxpayer money to investigate ways of improving our community and education system, we need students to learn the systems they will be working on once they graduate. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money and draws more criticism from our constituency.

Working smarter is always better than working harder. Let’s be smart, investigate technology our students will actually use when they leave the schoolhouse for the workforce.

Field Trip: New Hanover leaders to visit Apple headquarters eyeing tech improvements in schools, workforce

 

Your Child Matters: Restoring Trust in Schools

When I was teaching at one of the local middle schools, one of the biggest obstacles I ran into was trust. Parents and students, especially those who came from poor neighborhoods, did not trust schools. This wasn’t because of safety issues, but the feeling they themselves had been failed by the system. I often heard “I didn’t learn anything and going didn’t help me.”

Looking back, I couldn’t blame them. While time and resources were being spent on students who participated in programs that highlighted the school, before testing meant something, those who struggled were given busy work to pass them on to the next grade. Unacceptable.  If we are going to restore integrity to New Hanover County Schools and its Board of Education, we need to restore trust in those who may have lost it in public schools. We need to send the message “Your child matters, regardless of address or ability!”