ImageOn the surface one could easily say that it’s a ‘no brainer’.  After all a life without an education opens up all sorts of challenges for the individual…. literacy, employment, and financial stability.  But what I’m about to present isn’t about the merits of education but the points in education whereby value is created.  Regardless of what nation you are we lament about the quality of education, whether it be in a progressive or emerging nation we see a general concern about educational outcomes.  You can point to the guarded few who excel and are in the category of high ranking students, but how about the rest?  How about the challenged and under achievers or the middle students that sit less than the top and above the bottom.  I must admit that I fell into the middle stage during my high school years.  It was more comfortable to be a ‘B’ student then push to be an ‘A’ one.  I learned about balancing academic sufficiency with social development.  You will learn that this isn’t an easy thing to do when it comes to parenting is establishing the balance between learning, studies and academic achievement with the need for socialization.  As we should all know however is that too much of anything is not healthy and leads to problems that are far worse than if we ratchet things down a bit to achieve a more stable balance.

Where’s the Beef (aka Value)?

ImageWe all have a general understanding that inbreeding creates birth irregularities.  In some ways our educational institutions have created an atmosphere built upon tradition, protected by tenure policy and often inherently devoid of outside input.  Educators may later become politicians and as a result they avidly protect the institutions to which they were a part of (this is a very big problem but one that may be worthy of a future writing on the topic).  Let’s take a moment to follow the chain of events from birth to maturity.   A student compelled to share and avid about a topic goes on to college to become a teacher.  After mastering all of their topical courses they commence with programs that deal with instructional methods and techniques.  These are later followed upon by field practicums that allow them to ploy their talents in a classroom setting.  It teaches the would be teacher what it is like to not only be in front of a class but all of the other things that a teacher must deal with (lesson planning, instruction, testing, discipline, class control, etc.).  Upon graduation the teacher then goes on to attain board certification as a teacher (having met all of the pertinent requisite requirements).  All of this is well and good, highly pragmatic, and a strong base for forming minimum qualification.   What is lacking however is a key element in making education a mind numbing act of memorization and one that drives interest and that is ‘interest generating abilities’.  In survey over 1000 university and college institutions not a single one offered such a program within the context of a teacher’s curriculum requirement.  At best it might find its way onto a teaching candidate’s agenda through an elective.  This IS NOT the way you build a society rich in interest in learning and exploring.

As a case in point I had a math teacher in high school and an accounting professor in college who were quite entertaining from a personality perspective but honestly their teach style left alot to be desired.  Yet, my 6th grade teacher (Mr. Dunn) created an atmosphere that was interesting, exciting and yet he was a strong disciplinarian.  You didn’t mess around when  you were in his class but there again why would you want to when you really wanted to learn, explore and were challenged by some really interesting but hard topics?  Although the next several years was marred with sub-standard, flat boring education I never forgot the atmosphere that he created (and it continues today some 40 years later in my business/technology work).  In talking about this I also think to an experimental Physical Science course that I was involved with.  It was new, exciting and was formed around learning through doing.  The teacher did a good job at herding us in directions to which we could find answers and sometimes even come up with new questions.  While he wasn’t particularly captivating, and as I learned later on suffered a number of personal issues, he nonetheless was able to create a positive learning atmosphere.

Sidetracked Process Distractions

ImageTeacher workshops, conferences and awards that all appear to reflect tradition little attention is given to the questions of “how are we doing” or “how to get more out of your efforts”.  This leads us to believe that the problem is not seen, possibly not even known.  I fear however that based on conversations with teachers and administrative officials it more the case of “we know what is right”.  Unfortunately this attitude, which might work well in the classroom (although today students are more apt to push back than to suck it up) but doesn’t cut muster with parents.  We aren’t talking about adding 2+2 or ‘for every action there is a reaction’, we are talking about results and what needs to be done.  This very well means that it may not be one simple change but a much more pervasive one that embrace the question of ‘how’ and a de emphasizing of the ‘what’.  Change can be scary but sharing in change brings with the comfort of companionship, mutual ownership and an atmosphere that becomes a sound catalyst for change.  Retaining an ‘A’ group mentality, meaning that you are amongst the elite will only face opposition and chaos.

Teachers Suck

ImageI hope I got your attention.  The vast majority of teachers are like those ‘middle students’.  They aren’t at the bottom, certainly not at the top and are quite happy being in the middle and just doing the job the best they can.  Their own education suffering from the lack of making the process of learning stimulating and captivating.  There are two factors that may push them beyond the norm and that are from great examples (other teachers, their own teachers like my Mr. Dunn) and inane self-abilities.  Unfortunately we aren’t talking about making this condition of goodness the exception, we are talking about making it comprehensively pervasive.  We don’t want only a few to have this characteristic, we want the majority to have it.  I’m sure that if you are a teacher you will want to lynch me at this point.   “How dare I”…  challenge the nobility of the teaching profession.  The battle cry of “we work hard”, “we care about your children” and so on are not untruths.  You do work hard and  you do care, otherwise you wouldn’t be a teacher.  But to be a teacher isn’t what is important.  What is important is the atmosphere and the outcomes (aka business value) that is created.  I know that some while back my cousin, a teacher was on here stoic platform about effort and commitment and I brought this point out to her.  Her reaction was rejection (and even when so far as to disconnect from me on Facebook).  I guess I should not care about this but given that she is a relative it can’t help but affect you.  Pointing out and reflecting on what matters vs. what is thought to matter is essential for improving results and creating an atmosphere where value can be created.  I think to those present day examples (from two of my high school classmates) who chose a teaching vocation and have embodied some of the points that I have mentioned.  Their success was based on their personal abilities and great examples (they took it to the next level by venturing forward and applying it).

WE are the Customer

It’s hard to imagine but the education system is not the center of the universe.  The center also does not reside with the student, they simply are the benefactors.  The customer is society, the parents, grandparents, guardians and even businesses who are the ones that must drive the level of excellence in education.  I could point out some of the failure points that sent our education system in such a misguided direction, but it serves no purpose in the context of improving our educational outcomes.  It is however important to understand that distractions from the mainstream, albeit in some feeble way it can be justified, only serve to further erode educational frameworks (not enhance upon it).  As the customer we must take a personal interest and make a commitment to supporting educational institution improvements.  As educational institutions  you need to open your mind and be willing to change, casting aside defensive reactions and self-righteous accolades.  None of this matters and certainly does little to create change that is pertinent and necessary (and not simply change for the sake of change).

Creating a positive learning atmosphere costs nothing.  A field trip on school grounds, exploration using the library (or internet) and permit a bit of controlled free ranging is sometimes all that it takes.  As educators permitting free range behavior and a bit of loss in control is often unsettling but rest assured the results will more than adequately compensate for your fear and trepidation.

As a parent, as a business owner and as a human being we must seek the best possible model for educating our children (and those that will eventually enter society).  It’s hard enough for them to adapt the realities of life.  But its even hard to have them enter life inadequately equipped because we gave little attention to improving the value emanating from our educational institutions.