A View From Below

Ground Control to Major Tom

I am now in my sixteenth year at ground level in education. Although I always try to view things from above, the fact remains that I am knee-deep in the field. What the Marines might affectionately refer to as…well…you know.

10,000 feet above gives me a lot of perspective but below is where reality settles in. Above is where the problems are really visible. Below is where the problems are really really visible. Below is where you get to speak with the students and the teachers and the administrators and the parents and begin to see the problem from their perspective.

AC and Me!
AC and Me!

I recently participated in the Shadow A Student Challenge. It was an opportunity for me to experience an entire school day from the perspective of a student (in my particular case an 8th grader). I met AC for breakfast, accompanied him to his morning classes, joined him and his peers for lunch, then went with him to his afternoon classes until the final bell tolled at 3:57. It was a great experience. I went in with no assumptions, no preconceived notions…just the want to experience a day in the life of an 8th grader at West Grand Middle School. [Back to me and my shadow in a moment.]

I want to make our school a better place. It has faced a lot of challenges over the years. Challenges that have really taken their toll on the overall education of students. High teacher turnover, little to no support from administration, lack of proper training, no guidance in the overall direction of the school…just to name a few. When I began in August, I could see the exhaustion and the exasperation on the faces of the staff. Note to self: Maybe I should shadow a teacher…

ENTER REALITY: I believe we are on a forward path to right many of the past wrongs, but we still have our work cut out. Change in education never moves as quickly as we want it to (perhaps for some it moves WAY quicker than they want it to). The visionary in me can see the victory ahead; the realist in me knows that it will be an arduous process.

Back to my student-shadowing experience. One of the things I asked AC at the end of the day was, ‘Do you feel like school’s a race?’ I had been waiting most of the day to ask him that question. I think it caught him a little off guard but he ultimately admitted that it does. Of the entire day’s experience (and it was truly a blast) that moment stuck with me. And I knew that answer before I asked the question because that’s how it felt for me. Rush to class…get out your materials…write down what the teacher says…leave class…repeat.

That’s not what education’s about! Learning should be a marathon, not the 100 meter dash!

As often as I experience that which I do not understand, I don’t lay blame anywhere. And I have spent enough time criticizing ‘EdWorld’ for creating this type of system as well as the teachers within it. I am not a person interested in going backward; I only seek to go forward. I have heard from many of my teachers, ‘We want to make our classes better, we just don’t know how.’ Well I don’t have all the answers either…so let’s create that betterness together. Let’s put down our guard, let’s leave our egos at the doorstep, and let’s give kids the best experience of their lives.

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Feel the same way? Experience something similar in your school? Let’s make ideas happen and pivot the model. Join us in Denver this summer!