As I have become more diverse in my education experiences I have begun to realize how one dimensional many aspects of teaching and learning have become. Students, teachers, and policy-makers seem to work in exclusion on one topic or idea at a time avoiding the synthesis innate in collaboration. The silo nature of education both in and out of schools needs to end. My resolution for 2016 is to target a few areas as I help to 'unsilo' education in my area and beyond:
1. Help end the compartmentalization nature of our high school classes. After trading spots with one of my high school sophomores for the day, I realized a typical student's day consists of unrelated 50ish minute chunks that pile on instead of work together. We must unsilo public schools so the interrelated nature of topics in the real world is mimicked through authentic projects and presentations in cross-curricular, extended chunks of time. When is the last time you worked on 7 different projects in a day each for an hour?
2. Push for testing to be cross-curricular and mirror authentic situations. Much like mentioned above, a typical assessment of adults jobs skills are done in project form, usually collaboratively and over a span of time. On the other hand, we like to break student assessments into short, individual, standardized chunks that last 30-60 minutes and only focus on one topic. The SAT, ACT, PARCC, MSTEP might be great for cheaply sorting students by reading, writing, math, science and social studies but they do so in a siloed and unnatural way.
3. Help politicians to understand how they can best network with educators to support educational policy and a strong citizenship. Policy makers often do so in a vacuum where lobbyists and aides drive their decisions. It may be by no fault of their own when it comes to education as many politicians do not know where to start in asking for education help. With this in mind, I hope to continue to reach out to my local representatives and beyond to help them to find amazing educators who can help them make informed decisions beyond the halls of the legislature on topics that make sure our future citizens are best educated.
4. Help students, teachers, and administrators to be one. Students are good at going to and from class and being kids and young adults. Teachers are good at finding a niche at their buildings and being educators. Administrators are good at working all angles of the office and being the boss. My goal is to break out of our lanes and start to be a team. Teacher advisory councils? Student policy and discipline teams? Administrators being a student for the day? These ideas might not be common place in all schools but they need to be.
Currently, we treat education as little items to be fixed in exclusivity. Bad teachers? Fire them. Poor test scores? Skill and drill the students. Bad building culture? Just get rid of the principal. Instead of treating education by the disease-based model of treating each group or problem separately, my resolution is to help stakeholders to see that we need to break down barriers between people and problems for sociocultural and holistic improvements. Collaboration makes sense as the room is smarter than its parts. We need wholesale betterment by attacking education via multiple disciplines and points of view all at the same time.